Rep. David Cicilline previews the first major antitrust investigation in over 50 years

Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., joins Yahoo News Senior Political Correspondent Jon Ward on “The Long Game” podcast to discuss a much-anticipated hearing in the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. On Monday, the CEOs of the four biggest technology companies will testify: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Sundar Pichai of Google and Tim Cook of Apple.

Video transcript


JON WARD: What are you hoping to hear from these tech CEOs on Monday?

DAVID CICILLINE: The purpose of it is, really, to hear from the decision makers. In each of these companies, the CEOs are the real decision makers. And so the subcommittee that has been investigating this digital marketplace, I think, has a number of questions about the decisions that were made, about the policies that are in place, so that we can better understand how these platforms operate.

You know, part of this-- you know, this is an evidentiary responsibility. We're not an enforcement agency like the FTC. But our responsibly is to figure out, is the statutory framework working, or do we have to make changes to it? And so hearing directly from these decision makers about important decisions that have been made that have-- that impacted competition, that may have favored their own goods and services, that-- that bullied consumers, or small businesses, or innovators, I think, will be important questions for the subcommittee to have answered.

JON WARD: And I think-- I think that was-- it was your first big hearing, you know, back in would have been 2018 or 2019, I can't remember now. But at the first hearing, you talked about how this was your first-- or was the first big congressional investigation into antitrust since Microsoft, is that right?

DAVID CICILLINE: This is the first major antitrust investigation being conducted by Congress in 50 years-- or, more than 50 years. And I must say, it's been very bipartisan. The subcommittee members have studied these issues very seriously over the last year, and I think it's going to produce a really good report.

JON WARD: Why was there so little work by Congress on this issue for half a century?

DAVID CICILLINE: It's a great question. You know, I think particularly in the context of the digital marketplace, I think part of it is, you know, these are great American companies that, you know, were exciting, and were growing fast and creating lots of jobs. And there were lots of exciting new opportunities. You could talk to your grandmother on Facebook. You could get products delivered the next day by Amazon. So I think there was a lot of excitement around it.

And I don't know that people fully appreciate the kind of data collection that was underway, the kind of size and acquisition strategies of these companies, and what its impact was on competition and innovation. And I think, you know, some of our European allies have been sort of much further ahead on this issue, and sort of recognized some of the privacy issues and competition issues. And I think we just didn't as a country. And that was both Democratic and Republican administrations.

I don't think there was a proper focus on the dangers that this kind of, you know, monopoly power or market dominance can present. And so, you know, I think we have a responsibly to make up for lost time and to really move forward aggressively with good competition policies. I mean, I think part of it was, there wasn't a big interest in it in the Congress. Our antitrust enforcement agencies maybe didn't have enough resources.

I think there was just not-- there was not any big interest. I think people were sort of the attitude, let these platforms flourish, just let them go. And that may have been OK at the very early stages of their existence, but I think this investigation has revealed that really serious competition problems have developed. And they're presenting real harm to consumers, and to innovation, and to-- you know, we want the marketplace to work to make room for the next Amazon, and the next Google, and the next Facebook, and to have, you know, opportunities to enter the marketplace and be successful. And I think what we're seeing is just the opposite. So we're catching up in terms of our antitrust work, for certain.