The CEOs of four of the largest technology companies in the world have agreed to appear before a congressional panel later this month.
“Since last June, the Subcommittee has been investigating the dominance of a small number of digital platforms and the adequacy of existing antitrust laws and enforcement,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement.
“Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming. As we have said from the start, their testimony is essential for us to complete this investigation.”
The hearing is part of the Judiciary Committee’s probe of competition in the digital marketplace.
Lawmakers have been looking into the issue since last year.
Nadler, Cicilline, and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the ranking member of the Antitrust Subcommittee, in September 2019 sent document requests to the four tech companies as part of the probe.
“The documents requested will provide the Committee with a better understanding of the degree to which these intermediaries enjoy market power, how they are using that market power, whether they are using their market power in ways that have harmed consumers and competition, and how Congress should respond,” Nadler said at the time.
The investigation is focusing on documenting competition problems in digital markets, examining whether dominant firms are engaging in anti-competitive conduct, and assessing whether existing antitrust laws, competition policies, and current enforcement levels are adequate to address these issues.
The investigation isn’t linked to the Trump administration’s efforts to curb the power of social media platforms, which are shielded from most liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Those efforts are opposed by Nadler, who said in May that Trump was wasting taxpayer dollars dealing with “internet companies who are finally trying to address misinformation on their platforms.”
Twitter in particular has increasingly become involved in politics, hiding and placing warnings on some content that President Donald Trump has posted in recent months while taking no action against his presumed challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Department of Justice in mid-June unveiled a series of legislative proposals that are meant to update what the agency said was “outdated immunity for online platforms.”
Attorney General William Barr called the censorship of some content by tech companies “very disturbing,” adding: “These companies held themselves out as open to all comers. That’s how they built up all their membership and their networks, saying, you know, we have a wide variety of views. People can come in and post their views and their positions and their statements.”
“Then they have switched. Now they’re being more selective, and they’re starting to censor different viewpoints,” he said.
The Department of Justice is also conducting an antitrust review into the platforms, which started last year.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.