Four tech titans go before Congress

By Brian Fung, Rishi Iyengar and Kaya Yurieff

Updated 7:00 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020
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4:14 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Bezos acknowledges that Amazon devices are sometimes sold below cost

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Rep. Jamie Raskin sought to show that Amazon enjoys dominance in the market for smart assistants.

Several companies, Raskin said, told the committee that Amazon prices its Echo devices below cost, “making it nearly impossible for them to compete” and making it likelier that Amazon will “own the smart home.”

Bezos acknowledged that Amazon Echoes may sometimes be sold below cost, particularly if they are on sale.

4:22 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Zuckerberg grilled on whether he pressured Instagram into acquisition

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Mark Zuckerberg came under fire on Wednesday over whether he used Facebook's power to pressure Instagram to agree to an acquisition.

Rep. Jayapal cited Zuckerberg’s dealings with Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom. “In a chat, you told Mr. Systrom that Facebook was, quote, ’developing our own photo strategy, so how we engage now will also determine how much we’re partners versus competitors down the line.’”

Jayapal then added that Systrom interpreted the remarks as a threat, telling an investor that he worried Zuckerberg would go into “destroy mode” if he didn’t agree to sell Instagram.

Zuckerberg denied that that was his intent. “It was clear that this was a space we were going to compete in one way or another,” he said. “I don’t view those conversations as a threat in any way.”

Jayapal also pressed Zuckerberg over his company’s acquisition strategy more broadly, saying he has “used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors and to ensure you always get your way.”

4:01 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Facebook's aggressive land grab strategy is under fire

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

The House Judiciary Committee
The House Judiciary Committee

Rep. Joe Neguse turned up the heat again on Facebook’s acquisition strategy, citing an email by David Wehner, the company’s chief financial officer. The email, Neguse said, described Facebook’s merger strategy as a “land grab.”

“We are going to spend 5-10% of our market cap every couple of years to shore up our position,” Neguse read aloud from the Wehner’s email. “I hate the word ‘land grab’ but I think that is the most convincing argument and we should own that.”

Neguse then said that Instagram’s success reflects that strategy. Asked for a response, particularly on Instagram, Zuckerberg acknowledged that Instagram “has certainly grown beyond our wildest expectations” but that Instagram was part of a much larger market for “the global space of how people connect, more broadly.”

3:52 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

'Put on your mask!' 'Fringe conspiracy theories.' Watch the fiery exchange

3:48 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

In 2012 email, Zuckerberg said Facebook can 'always just buy any competitive startups'

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

House Judiciary Committee
House Judiciary Committee

Rep. Joe Neguse referenced an email Zuckerberg sent in 2012 saying Facebook had reached a deal to acquire Instagram. A Facebook employee, who is redacted from the email, responded: "Well played."

Zuckerberg wrote back: "Thanks. One reason people underestimate the importance of watching Google is that we can likely always just buy any competitive startups, but it'll be a while before we can buy Google."

When asked about the email in the hearing, the Facebook CEO said he didn't recall the email, but that it "sounds like a joke."

3:40 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Democrats focus on antitrust at antitrust hearing. Republicans focus on anti-conservative bias

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Rep. Gregory Steube, a Florida Republican
Rep. Gregory Steube, a Florida Republican

While Democrats have largely gone after the tech CEOs for their use of data and behavior toward other competitors in the marketplace, Republicans during the hearing have consistently alleged a pattern of anti-conservative bias by the tech companies, despite little more than anecdotal evidence.

GOP lawmakers’ strategy seems clear: To encourage the media to cover claims of ideological bias as equivalent in gravity and stature to antitrust issues. But researchers have consistently failed to turn up evidence of systemic bias on the part of the platforms’ technology.

At one point, Rep. Gregory Steube, a Florida Republican, confronted Pichai, portraying as an example of bias what may have been a simple technical problem. Steube said that his congressional campaign emails to supporters, including his parents, have often been blocked or sent to Gmail’s spam folder.

“There’s nothing in the algorithm that has anything to do with political ideology,” Pichai said. “We do get complaints across the aisle.”

As if to underscore the point, Rep. Val Demings added, “for the record, I’m a Democrat from Florida and I’ve had heard complaints about my email going to spam as well.”

3:16 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

Two hours into hearing, Jeff Bezos gets his first question

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Jeff Bezos got his first question at the tech hearing.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal pressed Bezos to respond to claims that Amazon uses third-party seller data to advantage itself, a potential antitrust concern for the e-commerce company.

Jayapal cited an anonymous Amazon employee’s testimony that there is a rule against using such data, but that it is not enforced, describing the situation as a “candy shop.”

Bezos acknowledged that there is a policy that prohibits the use of third-party seller data to support Amazon’s own private-label business. But, he admitted, “I can’t guarantee you that policy has never been violated.”

Bezos said that Amazon was looking into reports about violations of the policy. “I’ll take that as you’re not denying it,” Jayapal said.

2:53 p.m. ET, July 29, 2020

And we're back!

From CNN Business' Kaya Yurieff

After a short recess, the hearing has resumed. The committee did not elaborate on the technical difficulty.

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

Hearing goes into a recess

The committee has gone into a quick recess to deal with a witness having technical difficulties.