US antitrust regulator may question Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg: Report

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – US regulators may question Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and his right-hand executive to determine if the social network has broken monopoly laws, according to a Wall Street Journal report Friday (July 17).

The Journal cited unnamed people close to the matter as saying the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering taking sworn testimony from Mr Zuckerberg and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg as part of a yearlong probe into whether the leading social network has abused its dominance in the market.

In a photo from Oct 23, 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington.
In a photo from Oct 23, 2019, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington.PHOTO: REUTERS

The FTC declined to discuss the report.

“We look forward to sharing our views about the competitive landscape, along with other technology leaders, during this month’s Congressional hearing, while also demonstrating for enforcement agencies that our innovation provides more choices for consumers,” a Facebook spokesperson said in response to an AFP inquiry.

Leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are to testify during an antitrust investigation hearing at the US House Committee on the Judiciary on July 27.

The hearing comes against a backdrop of growing complaints about tech platforms that have dominated key economic sectors, and calls by some activists and politicians to break up the Silicon Valley giants.

Chief executives Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Tim Cook (Apple), Sundar Pichai (Google), and Mr Zuckerberg can appear virtually if they wish, according to a joint statement released by Judiciary committee chairman Jerrold Nadler and Antitrust subcommittee chairman David Cicilline.

“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,” Mr Nadler and Mr Cicilline said.

“Given the central role these corporations play in the lives of the American people, it is critical that their CEOs are forthcoming.”

Google and Facebook, which account for the bulk of digital global advertising revenue, provide free services that have become dominant in their sectors – such as Google’s search engine or its subsidiary, video-sharing platform YouTube.

Users’ interactions with these products allow the companies to collect data profiles and sell targeted advertising space on a massive scale.

At Apple and Amazon, it is their sales platforms – the App Store on iPhones and iPads, or Amazon’s e-commerce site – that are in the sights of regulators, since the two companies are both hosts and merchants.

Earlier this year, the US Justice Department said it was reviewing potential anti-competitive actions by major tech platforms, and attorneys general from the majority of US states have launched antitrust investigations of Google and Facebook.

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