Four tech titans go before Congress

By Brian Fung, Rishi Iyengar and Kaya Yurieff

Updated 7:00 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020
29 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:53 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Internal Facebook emails raise new questions about Instagram acquisition

By CNN Business' Donie O'Sullivan

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was confronted Wednesday about internal company emails he sent in 2012 about buying Instagram. The emails were acquired by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its antitrust investigation into large technology companies. 

In one email, Zuckerberg said Instagram could be “very disruptive” to Facebook. An email from Facebook’s chief financial officer referenced neutralizing a potential competitor, which Zuckerberg replied was part of the motivation.

Rep. Jerry Nadler said the emails showed Facebook viewed Instagram as a threat and, rather than compete with it, his company bought it.

In response, Zuckerberg did not deny he viewed Instagram as a threat, but pointed out that the deal was approved by the FTC at the time.

Watch more:

2:43 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Tech CEOs appeal to American patriotism

By CNN Business' Rishi Iyengar

All the tech executives sought to drive home the point that their companies are by America, for America.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos referenced the "trust" Americans have in Amazon. "We need American workers to get products to American customers," he said in his prepared remarks.

"Apple is a uniquely American company whose success is only possible in this country," the company's chief executive Tim Cook said in his remarks, touting the number of US jobs it has helped create.

The US battle with China for tech supremacy informed part of Mark Zuckerberg's argument.

"If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American," the Facebook CEO said. "Today, almost half are Chinese."

2:35 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

90 minutes in and Jeff Bezos has largely been ignored

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

Of the four tech CEOs appearing at today's hearing, none was more highly anticipated than Jeff Bezos, who has never appeared before Congress before.

And yet, nearly 90 minutes into the hearing, the world's richest man was essentially ignored -- other than his opening remarks. The House members instead focused their initial round of questions on the other CEOs.

In his opening remarks, Bezos focused on his upbringing and parents, and noted that 80% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Amazon.

At one point, Bezos, even appeared to have a snack during the hearing.

4:00 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

House Judiciary Committee Chairman: Should Instagram be spun off from Facebook?

From CNN Business' Brian Fung and Elana Zak

Should Instagram be broken off from Facebook? That's the question House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler posed to Mark Zuckerberg.

While Instagram is currently a giant platform with more than one billion monthly users, Zuckerberg noted that it was far from that when Facebook bought the startup for $1 billion in 2012.

It was not a guarantee that Instagram was going to succeed," Zuckerberg said.

"In hindsight, it looks obvious that Instagram reached the scale it has. At the time, it was far from obvious," he told the committee.

Zuckerberg pointed out that at the time of the Instagram acquisition, the Federal Trade Commission voted not to challenge the deal, implying that there was no anticompetitive concern. But today’s FTC is actively reviewing the last decade of tech acquisitions, and it could easily arrive at a different conclusion based on the way history played out.

Just because regulators did not perceive a competitive issue at the outset does not rule out future antitrust enforcement.

2:10 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Is Google worried about Yelp?

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Chairman Cicilline cited documents from Google that he said showed company officials fretting about other websites.

"Google evolved from a turnstile to the rest of the web to a walled garden that increasingly keeps users within its sites,” Cicilline said.

He added: “Google’s staff discussed the ‘proliferating threat’ that these web pages posed to Google,” citing allegations that Google “stole content” from rivals such as Yelp. Yelp has long argued to policymakers that it has been negatively affected by Google’s business practices in search.

“One of Google’s memos observed that certain web sites were getting, and I quote, ‘too much traffic,’ so Google decided to put an end to that,” Cicilline said.

“Congressman, when I run the company, I’m really focused on giving users what they want,” said Pichai, who professed not to be familiar with the specifics of the allegations.

2:21 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Mark Zuckerberg name-checks rivals in opening statement

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

In his opening remarks, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg pushed back at antitrust scrutiny by detailing the "intense competition" he says his company faces.

He ticked off a number of competitors, including from Apple's iMessage messaging platform, short-form video platform TikTok and YouTube. Zuckerberg also said the company competes with Amazon and Google in the advertising space.

2:42 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Tim Cook: Apple isn't dominant in any market

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Apple CEO Tim Cook began his testimony Wednesday by recognizing the late Rep. John Lewis, before arguing that Apple faces fierce competition in the smartphone market.

“Our goal is the best, not the most,” Cook said.

We don’t have a dominant share in any market or in any product category where we do business.”

That’s not the main complaint that Apple critics have leveled against the company, though. What many app developers have complained about are Apple’s tough app store rules.

1:49 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Jeff Bezos: 'I believe Amazon should be scrutinized'

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos told Congress that “no force in the world should be able to move” a company that reflects on criticism and still decides it is doing the right thing.

In his prepared testimony posted to Amazon’s website, Bezos began with a personal appeal, telling the story of his mother and father, before explaining how they invested their life savings in Amazon, and the internet. It was “something they didn’t understand,” Bezos will say, but “they were making a bet on their son.”

Bezos claims that Amazon faces a crowded marketplace in online retail -- namedropping brands like Target, Costco and Walmart. The CEO will also note that his company deserves to be scrutinized:

Let me close by saying that I believe Amazon should be scrutinized. We should scrutinize all large institutions, whether they’re companies, government agencies, or non-profits. Our responsibility is to make sure we pass such scrutiny with flying colors.

1:56 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Tech CEOs are just like us. Their video backgrounds are also being scrutinized

By CNN Business' Rishi Iyengar

Along with what they are saying, another subject of (some) scrutiny is bound to be the four billionaire tech CEOs’ videoconferencing backgrounds. 

Mark Zuckerberg went with the neutral white wall that he has used previously, while Tim Cook also chose a neutral background, albeit with what appeared to be a few plants on either side of him. 

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, joined the hearing from in front of a classic wooden bookshelf, albeit with few books on it. 

Google’s Sundar Pichai, meanwhile, was seated in what appeared to be a boardroom, with a stack of books to his left and a plant, vase and some ceramic items on his right.