GOP lawmaker to tech CEOs: 'Being big is not inherently bad'

GOP lawmaker to tech CEOs: 'Being big is not inherently bad'
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jim SensenbrennerFrank (Jim) James SensenbrennerHillicon Valley: House panel grills tech CEOs during much anticipated antitrust hearing | TikTok to make code public as it pushes back against 'misinformation' | House Intel panel expands access to foreign disinformation evidence Five takeaways as panel grills tech CEOs Jordan confronts tech CEOs over claims of anti-conservative bias MORE (Wis.), the top Republican on the congressional panel questioning the CEOs of America’s largest tech companies, said Wednesday that “being big is not inherently bad,” instead pointing to concerns about anti-conservative bias on their platforms.  

Sensenbrenner, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, indicated in his opening statement that is particularly concerned with whether or not Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are too large. That is the main concern than his Democratic counterparts, who compared the companies to monopolies.  

“Since the start of this investigation we’ve heard grumblings from people who say your companies have grown too large,” the Wisconsin congressman said. “...While I find these complaints informative, I don’t plan on litigating these complaints today.

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Sensenbrenner said that it is “seriously troubling” that “dissenting views — often conservative views are targeted or censored” on social media platforms.

House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanThe 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence Tucker Carlson calls Fauci a 'fraud' after tense hearing Overnight Health Care: Five takeaways from Fauci's testimony | CDC: Children might play 'important role' in spreading COVID-19 | GOP leader wants rapid testing at Capitol MORE (R-Ohio) pointed to what they believe is an anti-conservative bias on Twitter, whose CEO Jack Dorsey was not present at the hearing. 

Sensenbrenner also asked Zuckerberg why Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE Jr.'s account "was taken down for a period of time."

"I think what you might be referring to happened on Twitter, so it's hard for me to speak to that," Zuckerberg responded, likely referencing Twitter limiting Trump Jr.'s account earlier this week over a video containing false coronavirus claims.

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There is no proof of those platforms having a systematic ideological bias, though some posts from conservative lawmakers and the president have been flagged for going against community guidelines. 

“I share that market dominance in the digital space is ripe for abuse, particularly when it comes to free speech,” he said. “As we know companies like Facebook, Google’s Youtube and Twitter have become the public square of today where political debate unfolds in real time.”

The congressman said it was “not a problem” that the companies are “large” and “successful” but that they may influence political discourse in favor of progressive views. 

“Conservatives are consumers too and they need the protection of antitrust laws,” Sensenbrenner said.

-Updated 5 p.m.