Some of the biggest household names in tech—Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon—faced the ire of lawmakers and regulators in Washington, D.C. earlier this week during the largest antitrust hearing in decades. Questions focused on market power and accused the companies of various practices—from buying out smaller firms to reshaping algorithms—that leave other tech and media organizations struggling (and oftentimes failing) to compete.
In total, three hearings took place on Tuesday, with the principal proceedings concerning the online ad industry overseen by the House Judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee. Meanwhile, two others focused on Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency and alleged censorship across Google search, with politicians leveling criticism against the tech behemoths—an attitude that seems to be gaining steam throughout Capitol Hill.
“Congress and antitrust enforcers allowed these firms to regulate themselves with little oversight,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., the antitrust committee’s chairman, in his opening remarks. “As a result, the internet has become increasingly concentrated, less open, and growingly hostile to innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The tech giants, for their part, repeatedly refuted the notion of having a chokehold on online commerce, arguing that they still compete for ad dollars along with the rest of the web. In one notable exchange, Facebook’s head of global policy development, Matt Perault, flatly denied his company was monopolistic, pointing out that it brings in less than a quarter of total digital ad spend in the U.S.
Statistics appear to back this claim up, albeit with nuances.
According to eMarketer estimates for 2018, the platform captured about 22% of overall digital U.S. ad spend, which eclipses the combined 2.3% of competing social networks Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest.
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