Executives at some of the world's biggest technology firms will now be asked to testify before the US House Judiciary subcommittee, amid talk that the companies should be broken up because of their overwhelming influence over several key tech markets, Reuters reports.
The names of the companies have not explicitly been provided yet but recent reports have indicated that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple are all potentially going to need to take part in the probe. Each has been called out by a number of US representatives over the past several months and has been rumored as under potential antitrust investigations conducted by the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department.
The four companies are said to be split evenly between the two government bodies.
Sentiments about how to handle the companies have generally been split across the political divide, although calls to dismantle the tech giants has been seen on both sides. Some Democratic Senators such as Elizabeth Warren have explicitly for a break up of the larger companies while Republicans such as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy have stated that they don't see what purpose that could serve. That split does not extend to the probe itself, which members of each party are calling for.
This could just be a repeat of last year
Now, this certainly isn’t the first time executives and leaders at major technology firms have been asked to testify in a US House Judiciary probe and those who have watched such probes in the past are likely not expecting much to be discovered. In the past, companies have typically skirted tough questions with claims that improvements and changes both need to and would be made.
Typically, tough questions haven’t been asked at all, with members of the government body repeatedly showing an uncanny lack of understanding about how the technology they are asking about actually works. Among notable instances that have occurred is the most recent appearance of Google before a House Judiciary Committee late last year but Facebook and others have appeared before committees with similar results.
Like that previous probe, a key focus for several lawmakers seems to be whether or not the companies do enough to protect user privacy and data while allowing for a fair exchange of information without bias.
No immediate consequences
There's no reason to presume the questioning in this probe or answers provide will go another way but there is at least one differentiator.
Representatives have increasingly participated in calls to break up the big tech giants due to the amount of influence each has in a plethora of technology industries. So the companies in question may ultimately face much more impactful consequences as a result of the probe, regardless of whether or not the majority of questions are relevant at all.
If the probe does go badly for the companies, a deeper investigation by the FTC and DOJ will probably be kicked off to determine exactly what the outcome for the tech giant’s will be. Any legislative or regulatory changes that are needed will likely come later, as those will require further deliberation.