The most powerful tech CEOs in the country, representing Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, appeared before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel to discuss their market dominance and censorship yesterday. Here are some of the most misleading answers the CEOs gave Congress.
Yesterday, the CEO’s of major American tech firms Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook appeared before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel to discuss the market dominance of their firms and issues relating to censorship on their platforms. During the hearing, the CEOs made a number of claims relating to their platforms and the competition they face. Each of the CEOs made extremely misleading statements, with Google CEO Sundar Pichai regularly misrepresenting how Google operates or the competition the tech giant faces.
Here are six instances where the Masters of the Universe stretched the truth:
1: Google’s Sundar Pichai Claims it ‘Faces New Competition Every Day’
During the hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told Congress that the company faces intense competition, and that “new competitors emerge every day.”
Pichai stated: “Just as America’s technology leadership is not inevitable, Google’s continued success is not guaranteed. New competitors emerge every day, and today users have more access to information than ever before. Competition drives us to innovate, and it also leads to better products, lower choices, and more choices for everyone.”
However, while it is true that many companies may make an attempt to compete with Google, the chances of them being successful are extremely slim. For example, Google accounts for 90 percent of online searches according to GlobalStats, while competitors such as Microsoft’s Bing and the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo may attempt to compete with Google, the company faces no real threat or competition.
Google’s search dominance is one of the reasons that the company was able to suppress the search results of Breitbart News and other conservative news websites, essentially “purging Breitbart content from search results since the 2016 election,” according to Breitbart News’ reporter Allum Bokhari.
2: Google CEO Sundar Pichai: ‘We Don’t Approach Work With Any Political Viewpoint’
Pichai claimed during yesterday’s hearing that the tech giant does not approach its work with any particular political viewpoint, a concept disproved by Breitbart News’ extensive reporting on the company’s political bias. During yesterday’s hearing, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) addressed Pichai, stating:
You said something today different than you did with Ms. Lofgren, you confessed that there is a manual component to the way in which you blacklist content. It seems to be no coincidence that sites like Gateway Pundit, the Western Journal, American Spectator, Daily Caller, and Breitbart that receive the ire or the negative treatment as a consequence of your manual tooling.
And it also seems noteworthy that whistleblowers at your own comapny have spoken out. You said that one of the reasons you maintain this manual tool is to stop election interference, I believe it is in fact your company that is engaging in elction interference. You’re using your market dominance in search to accomplish that election interference.
I strongly disagree with that characterization.
We don’t approach this work with any political viewpoint. We do that to comply with law, known copyright violations, very narrow circumstances and we have to do that to comply with the law, and in many cases, those requests come [from] law enforcement agencies.
Breitbart News reported as far back as 2017 that political bias was rampant at Google, with senior management reportedly “on the verge of tears” following President Trump’s election. One Google insider told Breitbart News at the time: “After the 2016 election, we had an entire TGIF dedicated to the election result, in which several of our top management gave emotional speeches as though the world was going to end, and seemed to be on the verge of tears. It was embarrassing.”
Recently Breitbart News reported that Breitbart’s ranking in Google’s search engine had diminished significantly following our publication of a story in 2016 that at an internal meeting leaked to Breitbart News, top Google executives, including Sundar Pichai, Sergey Brin, and Kent Walker, expressed their anger over President Trump’s election and compared Trump voters to “extremists.” During the meeting, the executives discussed their desire to make Trump’s election and the populist movement a “blip” in history.
Breitbart News reporter Allum Bokhari writes:
Search visibility is a key industry measure of how findable a publisher’s content is in Google search. New data shows that Google has suppressed Breitbart’s search visibility by 99.7 percent since 2016.
On April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top ten search positions (i.e., on the first page of Google search results) for 355 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top ten search positions for only one search term. And, on April 4, 2016, Breitbart ranked in the top 100 search positions for 16,820 key search terms; but now, as of July 20, 2020, Breitbart ranks in the top 100 search positions for only 55 search terms.
Moreover, organic Google search traffic to Breitbart (measured by unique visitors) is down 63 percent when comparing the first half of 2016 with the first half of 2020.
Breitbart News has repeatedly revealed Google’s political bias, yet the company’s CEO still attempts to claim that the tech giant does not approach its work “with any political viewpoint.”
3: Sundar Pichai Claims Google Has ‘Limited Presence in China’
While it is true that due to China’s restrictive “Great Firewall” many U.S. companies such as Facebook and Google are unable to operate directly within the country, that hasn’t stopped Google from making multiple deals with the Chinese government and attempting to launch a censored search engine for government officials.
The search app, codenamed “Project Dragonfly,” would have featured a list of unsearchable terms based on topics that are blocked by the government of China. It would also have linked users’ searches to personal phone numbers. Leakers also claimed that Google’s privacy team had been denied access to the project, something the company denied. A senior Google researcher, Jack Poulson, resigned in protest at the project in September of 2018.
After details of Google’s Project Dragonfly search engine leaked, many came out in opposition to the company’s plans to operate in China. 14 human rights organizations published an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai which stated: “Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China.”
Vice President Mike Pence stated: “Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”
Google has stated that they are “not close” to launching a search engine in China but leaked discussions paint a different picture. Google’s Keith Enright told the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on September 26th that there “is a Project Dragonfly,” but said, “we are not close to launching a product in China.” Google’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, told a BBC reporter at Google’s 20th-anniversary celebration event: “Right now, all we’ve done is some exploration, but since we don’t have any plans to launch something, there’s nothing much I can say about it.”
But privately, discussions surrounding Project Dragonfly have painted a different picture. According to one Google source, Gomes’s comments to the BBC about Project Dragonfly were “bullshit.” Sources told the Intercept that Gomes informed employees in July 2019 that the company planned to release the censored Chinese search engine as soon as possible and employees were to prepare the engine to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed” once they received approval from Beijing.
4: Apple CEO Tim Cook Claims All App Developers Treated Equally
Google’s Sundar Pichai was not the only tech CEO to misrepresent how his company operates, Apple’s Tim Cook also made the bold claim that all iOS developers that attempt to have their app listed on Apple’s App Store are treated equally.
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) addressed Cook, stating: “Mr. Cook, with over one hundred million iPhone users in the United States alone and with Apple’s ownership of the app store giving Apple the ability to control which apps are allowed to be marketed to Apple users, you wield immense power over small businesses to grow and prosper. Apple is the sole decision-maker as to whether an app is made available to app users through Apple’s app store isn’t that correct?”
Cook responded: “If it’s a native app, yes sir.” Johnson then outlined an investigation that found that app developers are very much at Apple’s mercy when it comes to demands and changes to the App Store. Johnson stated: “The app store is said to also discriminate between app developers with similar apps on the Apple app platform, and also as to smaller app developers versus large app developers. So, Mr. Cook, does Apple not treat all app developers equally?”
Cook responded: “Sir, we treat every developer the same, we have open and transparent rules, its a rigorous process. Because we care so deeply about privacy and security and quality, we do look at every app before it goes on, but those rules apply evenly to everyone…”
However, Breitbart News has reported that Apple has a long history of removing apps from its store for a number of reasons and often with little cause. Breitbart News reported in 2016 that the app of the upstart social media network Gab was removed from the App Store by apple over content posted by users on the platform, not content generated by the app itself.
Gab CEO Andrew Torba commented at the time: “The double standards of Silicon Valley are on full display with this app store rejection from Apple. Apps like Tumblr, Reddit, and Twitter are flooded with pornographic content and allowed to remain on the App store.”
“Gab empowers users to filter out this type of content, mute users who share it, and also features a reporting system to flag illegal content,” he continued. “Apple went out of their way to seek out this content and find any reason to reject our app. We will continue to appeal this decision and defend free speech for everyone. In the meantime, Gab can be accessed from any mobile browser as always.” The Gab app is still unavailable in Apple’s app store.
5: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Alleges Company Makes Up Less Than 1 Percent of Global Retail — Fails to Note U.S. Online Retail Market Dominance
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world and CEO of e-commerce giant Amazon, noted in his opening remarks claiming that Amazon was not a monopoly that: “Amazon accounts for less than 1 percent of the [$]25 trillion in the global retail market and less than 4 percent of U.S. retail.”
Bezos is correct about those figures, but conveniently leaves out an extremely important one: Amazon accounts for 38 percent of all U.S. online shopping. Research firm eMarketer reports that Amazon accounts for approximately 38 percent of U.S. e-commerce sales, generating around $260.86 billion in revenue. The reserach firm writes:
We forecast that Amazon’s 2020 US retail ecommerce sales will rise 17.2% to $260.86 billion—4 percentage points higher than the expected overall growth rate for US retail ecommerce sales. As a result, Amazon’s market share will increase from 37.3% in 2019 to 38.7% this year while expanding its lead over the No. 2 player from 31.7 points to 33.4 points. We expect this momentum to continue into 2021 when it will reach 39.7% market share.
Andrew Lipsman, eMarketer principal analyst and report author, noted: “What’s surprising is that despite accounting for nearly four in 10 e-commerce dollars, the company continues to gain market share and extend its lead.”
So while Bezos is correct that in terms of global retail Amazon does not have a monopoly, it does have a stranglehold on e-commerce in the United States and a large chunk globally.
6: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Exaggerates Company’s Competition
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a similar claim to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, that the tech giant regularly faces competition from other tech firms. Zuckerberg did this by suggesting that Facebook was competing with every single tech product that connects people, this would include video calling services such as Zoom or even niche social networks such as Pinterest.
“The space of people connecting with other people is a very large space,” Zuckerberg told Congress. This is technically true but what the CEO failed to mention is that 69 percent of Americans are using Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. The next most popular social media network is the Facebook-owned photo and video-sharing app Instagram, which is used by 37 percent of U.S. adults.
Zuckerberg may be able to argue that in the broad definition of tech that connects users together Facebook does not dominate the market, but in terms of actual social media network dominance, Facebook’s power is unparalleled.
Read more about the tech CEO’s recent hearing before Congress at Breitbart News here.
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