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‘Company size doesn’t prevent competition’, Zuckerberg to argue at antitrust hearing

“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. 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 CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to tell lawmakers at an antitrust hearing on Wednesday, according to prepared remarks released to the public. “We know that our future success is not guaranteed, especially in a global tech industry defined by rapid innovation. The history of technology is often the history of failure, and even industry leading tech companies fail if they don’t stay competitive.”

In the remarks, Zuckerberg will be defending the company’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, arguing that Facebook’s products face heavy competition from other companies, “including against companies that have access to markets that we aren’t in.” Incidentally, Zuckerberg’s pitch about “big companies” is similar to what Amazon’s Jeff Bezos will be arguing.

Highlights from Zuckerberg’s testimony

The China card: Zuckerberg resurfaced an observation he has made about the Chinese internet, saying, “China is building its own version of the internet focused on very different ideas, and they are exporting their vision to other countries. As Congress and other stakeholders consider how antitrust laws support competition in the U.S., 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.” Facebook has tried, without success, to enter the Chinese market in the past.

On competition: “We are always working to develop technologies that will change how people connect and communicate in the future, and we invest around $10 billion per year in research and development. We know that if we don’t constantly keep improving, we will fall behind,” Zuckerberg will say. He cited the company’s investment in research & development and its open source projects as counterweights to its dominance.

On content moderation, hands off: In a thinly veiled reference to Twitter flagging the Trump administration’s misinformation, Zuckerberg said that platforms’ content moderation duties were limited: “Ultimately, I believe companies shouldn’t be making so many judgments about important issues like harmful content, privacy, and election integrity on their own. That’s why I’ve called for a more active role for governments and regulators and updated rules for the internet. If we do this right, we can preserve what’s best about this technology — the freedom for people to connect and express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things — while also protecting society from broader harms,” Zuckerberg will say.

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On ad competition: Similar to Google, Facebook argued that it has competition in online advertising: “Facebook supports its mission of connecting people around the world by selling ads, and we face significant competition. We compete against the companies appearing at this hearing, plus many others that sell advertising and connect people,” Zuckerberg will say.

Zuckerberg will be testifying along with Apple’s Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The testimony will be streamed live here at 9:30pm Indian time.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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