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House's tech antitrust hearing tumbles into political whirpool

Wednesday's House antitrust hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple got off to a rocky start, as Democrats and Republicans sought to steer it in wildly different directions.

What's happening: Democrats raised concerns of competitive abuses while Republicans slammed the companies for alleged anti-conservative bias.


Why it matters: The face-off is the culmination of a protracted conflict between Washington and Silicon Valley that has seen members of both parties push antitrust enforcement as a cure for any number of Big Tech ills.

What they're saying: As the hearing kicked off, Democratic leaders of the panel hosting the hearing upbraided the companies.

  • "Simply put, they have too much power," said House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline. "This power staves off new forms of competition, creativity, and innovation."
  • All four companies operate platforms that serve as "bottlenecks" for those looking to get apps, content and goods out to people and use their power to surveil rivals and force consumers into their ecosystems, Cicilline maintained.

But Republicans sought to pivot. Ranking antitrust panel member Jim Sensenbrenner celebrated tech companies for their size and power, narrowing his criticism to the bias allegations.

  • Rep. Jim Jordan, top Republican on the full Judiciary panel, greatly ramped up that line of attack, stating flatly, "Big tech is out to get conservatives."

For their part, the CEOs used their opening remarks to describe humble beginnings for their companies and argue that U.S. policies allowed them to flourish.

Go deeper:

This is a developing story. Keep checking back for updates.

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