Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is set to tell Congress that “companies aren’t bad just because they are big,” as the world’s biggest social media company today faces a historic investigation into its size and power.
Zuckerberg is expected to tell the US Congress that Facebook became successful “the American way, by starting out with nothing and providing products that people find valuable”, according to prepared testimony that was made public yesterday.
“We compete against the companies appearing at this hearing, plus many others that sell advertising and connect people,” Zuckerberg will tell politicians.
The Facebook chief’s testimony is part of a competition probe by the US House of Representatives into the size, power and data collecting methods of the company. Congress officials are likely to grill Zuckerberg over Facebook’s controversial acquisition of Whatsapp and Instagram.
Zuckerbeg will appear alongside the chief executives of Apple, Amazon and Google via video call in a highly-anticipated “four horsemen” showing, that has been hailed by a former US regulator as “tech’s Big Tobacco moment”.
The probe comes after more than a year of investigation by the House judiciary’s antitrust subcommittee, which has collected 1.3m documents and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews.
It will form the biggest investigation into the tech industry since 2001, when the US government pushed to break up Microsoft following accusations that it had illegally maintained a monopoly on the computer market.
Facebook’s audience is now bigger than Christianity, and double the population of China. Zuckerberg is set to argue that it could still “cease to exist” if it does not “compete hard”.
“We know that our future success is not guaranteed, especially in a global tech industry defined by rapid innovation…. even industry leading tech companies fail if they don’t stay competitive.
“As I understand our laws, companies aren’t bad just because they are big. Many large companies that fail to compete cease to exist.”
Facebook has been hit by advertising boycotts in recent months over its refusal to change controversial content policies.
Global brands including Ford, Adidas, Starbucks and Coca-Cola all paused ads on the site last month over concerns that “inappropriate content” was not being properly policed by Facebook.
Zuckerberg will today claim to face “significant competition” for advertising money, however the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) this month found that Facebook controls more than 50 per cent of the UK’s display adverts.
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world, will also take to Congress today to tell US legislators: “Just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones.”
The US entrepreneur will play up his humble roots, telling Congress that he is a “garage inventor” who started the $1.5 trillion (£1.2 trillion) company in his Seattle house.
Bezos will say: “The trust customers put in us every day has allowed Amazon to create more jobs in the United States over the past decade than any other company — hundreds of thousands of jobs across 42 states.”
The hearings, which will be conducted remotely due to social distancing measures, will begin at 5pm BST today.