Zuckerberg to urge US to update internet rules amid fears of Big Tech dominance
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Zuckerberg to urge US to update internet rules amid fears of Big Tech dominance

Facebook chief to take part in unprecedented House Judiciary Committee hearing along with Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Sundar Pichai of Google

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on October 23, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC on October 23, 2019. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg will tell a major antitrust hearing Wednesday that the internet giant would not have succeeded without US laws fostering competition, but that the rules of the internet now need updating.

“Facebook is a proudly American company,” Zuckerberg said in prepared remarks ahead of what will be a closely-watched House Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Our story would not have been possible without US laws that encourage competition and innovation.”

But Zuckerberg also acknowledged “concerns about the size and perceived power that tech companies have.”

“That’s why I’ve called for a more active role for governments and regulators and updated rules for the internet.”

Wednesday’s unprecedented hearing will also feature chief executives Tim Cook of Apple, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Sundar Pichai of Google and its parent firm Alphabet.

In this Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks off stage after holding a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The CEOs of four of the most powerful companies in the world will testify remotely at the hearing, which comes less than 100 days before the US election.

The showdown in the House of Representatives comes amid rising concerns over Big Tech dominance, which has become even more pronounced during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Ultimately, I believe companies shouldn’t be making so many judgments about important issues like harmful content, privacy, and election integrity on their own,” Zuckerberg’s prepared remarks read.

Big vs Bad

Questions at the hearing are expected to veer into issues ranging beyond whether the technology titans are abusing their power in marketplaces.

Current US antitrust laws make it difficult for enforcers to target companies simply for being large or dominant without showing harm to consumers or abuse of market power.

“We believe in values – democracy, competition, inclusion and free expression – that the American economy was built on,” Zuckerberg is to say.

“Many other tech companies share these values, but there’s no guarantee our values will win out.”

He is to cite the example of China building and exporting a version of the internet focused on “very different ideas” from the US model.

“I believe it’s important to maintain the core values of openness and fairness that have made America’s digital economy a force for empowerment and opportunity here and around the world,” Zuckerberg is to say.

The thumbs up ‘Like’ logo on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, April 14, 2020. (AP/Jeff Chiu)

Tech company chiefs are expected to stress how they benefit consumers, particularly during the pandemic, and face competition — particularly from China.

The antitrust debate is being muddled by a rising “techlash” over a range of issues from privacy to economic inequality to political bias.

“Facebook is a successful company now, but we got there the American way: we started with nothing and provided better products that people find valuable,” Zuckerberg is to say.

“As I understand our laws, companies aren’t bad just because they are big. Many large companies that fail to compete cease to exist.

Social media giants face attacks for allegedly using their dominance to stifle conservative views — a claim made by US President Donald Trump.

Facebook has been accused of failing to curb hateful content promoting violence, including from Trump.

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