After Congressional frying, Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and Facebook CEOs will release earnings reports today

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      It's a big day on Wall Street.

      One day after four of America's most powerful tech executives testified to a Congressional subcommittee, their companies will release their latest quarterly earnings reports.

      This will occur after the stock markets close today.

      It raises the potential of institutional investors' after-hours trading affecting the value four of the so-called FAANG companies—Alphabet (parent of Google), Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. The first three of those companies all have market values in excess of US$1 trillion.

      And tomorrow, this could rock the markets should the results dramatically exceed or fall short of analysts' expectations.

      Competitive practices scrutinized

      On July 29, the CEOs of these companies—Jeff Bezos, Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook, and Mark Zuckerberg—were grilled for five hours by members of the judiciary committee's subcommittee on antitrust, commercial, and administrative law.

      Democrat Pramila Jayapal asked some of the toughest questions of Amazon's Bezos, who launched his ecommerce behemoth in her Seattle district.

      Jayapal informed Bezos that a former Amazon employee told the committee that there's a rule about not helping oneself to vendors' data.

      But she noted that this employee also informed the committee that there isn't any spot checking or enforcement.

      According to Jayapal, this former employee described Amazon as a "candy shop" that everyone can have access to any data that they want.

      She wanted to know if this were true.

      "We do have certain safeguards in place," Bezos replied. "We train people on the policy. We expect people to follow that policy the same way we would any other.

      "It's a voluntary policy," he continued. 

      Jayapal followed up by confirming that there was "no actual enforcement" and that it was a voluntary policy.

      Bezos then clarified his remark by saying "the fact that we have such a policy is voluntary."

      "I think no other retailer even has such a policy," he added. "We would treat that like any internal policy and if we found that someone violated it, we would take action against them."

      Zuckerberg wacked over COVID denialism

      Another Democrat, David Cicilline from Rhode Island, questioned Bezos about how it copied one small business's innovation and then undercut it on price.

      Cicilline also went after Zuckerberg for Facebook's business model of prioritizing engagement to serve up more customers to its advertisers.

      Cicilline wanted to know what Zuckerberg was doing to address "demonstrably false claims" on its platform related to the COVID-19 pandemmic.

      Zuckerberg disagreed with Cicilline's allegation that this content was somehow helpful to his business.

      "It is not what people want to see," the Facebook CEO insisted. "We rank what show in feed based on what is going to be the most meaningful to people and what is going to create long-term satisfaction. Not what's just going to get engagement and clicks today."

      Cicilline fired back by asking Zuckerberg to explain why the second-most popular post on Facebook on July 28 was a notorious Breitbart video.

      It purported that people don't need to wear a mask and that hydroxycloraquine is a cure for COVID-19.

      "In the first five hours of being posted on Facebook, it racked up 20 million views and over 100,000 comments before Facebook acted to remove it," Cicilline said.

      "Congressman, a lot of people shared that, and we did take it down, because it violates our policies," Zuckerberg said in response. 

      "After 20 million people saw it over a period of five hours?" Cicilline stated. "I mean, doesn't that suggest, Mr. Zuckerberg, that your platform is so big that even with the right policies in place, you can't contain deadly content?"

      "Congressman, I don't think so," Zuckerberg said. "I think we have—on COVID misinformation in particular—a relatively good track record of fighting and taking down lots of false content, as well as putting up authoritative information."

      The Facebook CEO also said that the platform has created a "COVID Information Center".

      Perhaps the biggest news to emerge from Zuckerberg's testimony was his admission to New York Congressman Jerry Nadler's questions about his company's purchase of Instagram.

      Nadler cited a Zuckerberg email stating that the purpose of the purchase was to neutralize a potential competitor and to buy time.

      Zuckerberg acknowledged that Instagram was a competitor.

      Right-wing politician goes after Google

      Google's Pichai was criticized for "silencing" Breitbart and other right-wing sites.

      Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, a close ally of Donald Trump, demanded to ensure that Google didn't help Joe Biden in the next presidential election.

      Jordan cited a Google "multicultural marketing executive" trying to push up Latino voter turnout to help Democrat Hillary Clinton in the swing states of Nevada and Florida in the last election. 

      "So again, I want to make sure this isn't going to happen in 2020," Jordan said.

      "I can assure you we complied with laws in 2016," Pichai said. "As a company, any work we do around elections is nonpartisan."

      Then Jordan accused Google of "siding with the World Health Organization over anyone who disagrees with them, even though the World Health Organization obviously lied to America, obviously shills for China".

      Apple's boss fends off questions on apps

      Apple CEO Tim Cook probably had the easiest time before the committee. He opened his remarks by praising recently deceased Congressman John Lewis, whom he described as a hero.

      "Every American owes John Lewis a debt and I feel fortunate to hail from a state and a country that benefited so profoundly from his leadership," Cook said.

      He said that Apple only makes things that make them proud. He added that as cofounder Steve Jobs said, the company only creates products that they would recommend to family and friends.

      "Our goal is the best, not the most," Cook said. "In fact, we don't have a dominant share in any market or in any product category where we do business."

      Cook came under fire for running a monopoly with its App store. As well, he was criticized for Apple delaying allowing Random House's app to be offered on its platform, allegedly to support Apple Books.

      Some of the toughest questions were asked by Georgia Democrat Lucy McBath, who also zeroed in on Apple's Screen Time app. Competing parent-control apps were kept out of its App Store.

      "We were concerned, Congresswoman, about the privacy and security of kids," Cook said.

      The subcommittee is expected to eventually release a report with recommended changes to promote more competition and prevent tech giants from squelching innovation.

      Update

      Apple, Amazon, and Facebook shares rose sharply in after-hours trading following release of their earnings reports. For more on that, see this article.

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