Congressional hearing reveals that tech firms will face greater oversight

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It was an extraordinary gathering this week when Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Alphabet, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook testified virtually before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee. They represent four of the most influential individuals on the planet, since their firms have the power to shape how people communicate, shop, search, and socialize. In Bezos’s case, it actually was the first time he ever had testified before Congress. As a sign of the importance of the hearing, tech expert Gigi Sohn of Georgetown University called the gathering “tech’s Big Tobacco moment”, an allusion to the highly-publicized 1994 legislative hearing of the tobacco companies for questions about the health risks of their products.

The hearing on online platforms and market power occurred at a time of major change as a public “techlash” threatens the “permissionless innovation” regime that has governed the sector for many years. States and localities are enacting tough privacy rules, banning facial recognition software, restricting Airbnb rentals, and erecting guardrails for the gig economy workforce. As Brookings President John Allen and I announced in our new AI book entitled Turning Point:  Policymaking in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, we sit at …

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