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caption: U.S. lawmakers will question lobbyists and officials from Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple on an array of issues.
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U.S. lawmakers will question lobbyists and officials from Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple on an array of issues.
Credit: Reuters

Tech Firms To Face Lawmakers Over Antitrust, Digital Currency

Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple officials will be testifying on Capitol Hill Tuesday at three separate hearings on an array of issues, including whether they're so big they stifle competition.

All the hearings reflect a new mood in Washington, where lawmakers, regulators and even President Trump are calling for more thorough reviews of the big tech companies with a goal of tougher regulation to level the playing field.

The head of Facebook's effort to create a new digital currency called Libra will tell the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday morning that the company wants to work closely with policymakers and regulators.

In prepared testimony, Facebook's David Marcus said those setting up Libra expect it to be "licensed, regulated, and subject to supervisory oversight."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made it clear at a briefing Monday that he's not ready to support Facebook's currency plan — at least not yet.

"I'm not going to publicly speculate how long I think it will take them to get to the point where we're comfortable with it," he said. "But they are a long way away."

On Tuesday afternoon, lobbyists for Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are scheduled to go before a House Judiciary subcommittee. Lawmakers there are expected to question the companies about how they dominate markets, making it difficult for other companies to be competitive or have access to advertising, app creation and media.

Also Tuesday, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee will ask a Google lobbyist about whether the company's search engine ranks posts by conservative media and bloggers lower than other kinds of search results. Trump and other conservatives have been alleging the big tech companies have anti-conservative bias. The tech giants have denied bias and studies have no found evidence of it.

Facebook has faced increasing scrutiny over privacy violations. The Federal Trade Commission reportedly voted recently to fine the social media giant about $5 billion to settle a case stemming from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The firm, which worked on President Trump's 2016 campaign, acquired the personal data of millions of Facebook users. [Copyright 2019 NPR]