New internal documents released on Tuesday detail how the best-known companies of the three tech giants are favoring their own products as a means of eliminating competition. Their release comes as lawmakers push to approve stronger antitrust legislation by the end of the year.
The documents are part of a long-running House Judiciary Committee investigation into anticompetitive practices by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook parent Meta. The investigation closed in 2020, but newly released emails, memos and reports provide fresh evidence to support the committee’s call for stricter competition rules for the tech industry.
“It is time for Congress to act,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, said in a statement Tuesday.
Specifically, the documents show how Amazon and Google pressured independent sellers and smartphone makers to favor their own products and platforms over those of rivals. In a January 2014 email, a Google executive raised concerns about a potential new Samsung service that could compete with the company’s “core search experience.” In email chains as early as 2009, Amazon executives debated whether to limit competitors’ ability to advertise on its site. Amazon later bought rival Diapers.com in a deal that House investigators said helped the e-commerce giant secure its market dominance.
In another email, Google executives discussed how Amazon’s involvement has changed the personal voice assistant market. “Amazon has changed the dynamic here,” read the heavily redacted email. “Amazon has an inherent incentive to work with Alexa because if you don’t support it, they’ll pull you out of their store.”
Also included is a long-discussed Facebook memo titled “Possible End-State of App Families.”first reported information In 2019, the memo described a “tipping point” where users would start using other Meta-owned apps like Instagram and WhatsApp instead of its core Facebook platform. The 2018 memo, written for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, explained ways companies could slow the growth of Instagram and WhatsApp so as not to overtake Facebook’s dominance.
“WhatsApp and Facebook coexist as broadcast sharing apps,” the memo reads. “It’s unclear whether Instagram and Facebook can coexist … it seems unlikely that the three sharing apps will coexist.”
Tuesday’s document, released alongside the committee’s final report, describes the findings and legislative solutions to the competition issues they identified. Lawmakers argue that the lack of competition in the tech industry has led to worse online offerings over time. No Republicans co-signed the report’s recommendations, suggesting Democrats may have a harder time pushing for antitrust reform this year.
“The harm of aggressive antitrust legislation will put the United States at a global disadvantage and make it worse for Americans,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel at tech industry group NetChoice, said in a statement on Tuesday. will reach far beyond the digital marketplace: every business, every industry, every state consumer.”
Still, antitrust advocates have continued to pressure lawmakers and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to support a bill that would ban tech platforms from supporting their own products. Antitrust scholars and the Consumer Federation of America last week urged the Senate to pass the bipartisan American Innovation and Choice Online Act.
“From Amazon and Facebook to Google and Apple, there’s no question that these unregulated tech giants have grown too big to care, too powerful to put people above profits,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D. -WA) said in a statement on Tuesday.