Big tech made big promises in Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle directed ire at chief executives of the nation’s four largest tech giants in a rare episode of bipartisanship.
CEOs from Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google each sat before lawmakers via livestream for a five-hour hearing. Members grilled the four titans of the tech industry on a wide array of issues ranging from anticompetitive market practices and privacy concerns to conservative censorship and U.S. loyalty.
During the hearing, several representatives were able to extract major commitments from the CEOs as their West-Coast corporations continue their rapid rise in unchecked influence worldwide.
After repeating a question several times to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on whether the company would pledge not to rig search algorithms to support Joe Biden, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan finally got Pichai to say the words, “You have my commitment.” The back and forth, however, failed to sound very reassuring.
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At another point, Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck got each company CEO to declare they would abstain from profiting off slave labor, and would prohibit organizations from their platforms that did.
“Will you certify here today that your company does not use and will never use slave labor to manufacture your products or allow products to be sold on your platform that are manufactured using slave labor?” Buck asked. Each answered in the affirmative.
I asked Amazon’s @JeffBezos, Apple’s @tim_cook, Google’s @sundarpichai, and @Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg if they will certify that their companies do not and will not use slave labor to manufacture products.
We must hold Corporate America accountable to their use of forced labor. pic.twitter.com/jMqAYPbsz1
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) July 30, 2020
On the same day, Buck introduced a House version of Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley’s bill in the Senate to penalize U.S. companies that use forced labor at any point in their supply chain.
“It’s time we expose these ‘woke’ executives of American companies who pride themselves on their so-called progressive policies while they outsource supply chains to Chinese concentration camps,” Buck said in a statement announcing the bill.
Despite the major promises made by the four American tech giants in a hearing where Twitter’s absence served as a major blind spot, House Republicans remain unconvinced of their authenticity.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in the CEOs’ promises to not interfere in this year’s election on behalf of Joe Biden,” Florida Rep. Greg Steube told The Federalist. “Despite abundantly clear evidence, not one of the CEOs in yesterday’s hearing admitted that they are biased against conservative media. If they aren’t honest about it now, why should we trust them to be transparent or balanced during a major election year?”
Steube’s concerns have evidence behind them. In fall 2018, leaked emails from Google executives show the company deliberately tried to boost turnout in 2016 among Latinos in hopes that they would oppose Trump, but were surprised when many decided to back the Republican nominee instead.
Aside from the emails, Pichai dodged Steube’s questions over last week’s apparent blacklisting of conservative websites, when about a dozen top conservative sites were de-platformed.
“I will have to look into it,” Pichai said.
Buck didn’t share more optimism over the tech executives’ Wednesday promises after Google’s CEO meandered over the question about slave labor.
“It was like pulling teeth to get all four CEOs to state on the record that their companies do not and will never use slave labor to manufacture or sell their products,” Buck said to The Federalist. “This shouldn’t even be a question for companies that claim they stand for freedom and equality.”
When asked how much faith he had in the pledges made by the corporate giants at the hearing, Jordan answered with a simple, “Zero.”