Parliament: Big Tech CEOs Must Attend Hearing

If the chief executives of Big Tech companies in the U.S. don’t show at next month’s virtual hearing, some European Parliament members (MEPs) said sanctions could be imposed, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday (Jan. 19), citing sources.

MEPs will be sending invitations directly to the four biggest tech platforms — Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple — for a virtual hearing about tax and competition policy, the sources told FT.

It is unlikely that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Apple CEO Tim Cook will attend the hearing, the sources said, but there is still a possibility that Google CEO Sundar Pichai will attend. It’s unknown what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is planning.

“The risk now is that CEOs don’t come but send ‘people with suitable knowledge’,� a source told the news outlet. 

It’s possible that MEPs won’t be able to enforce such a ban since most meetings are being held virtually, the source said, adding that the sanctions might not be enforceable due to legalities.

“The purpose of the planned hearing is to have an exchange with the CEOs of the four globally leading platform companies to learn about their current business models and future concepts as they face the challenges of altering market conditions,� according to a draft of the invite seen by the Financial Times. 

MEP Stéphanie Yon-Courtin told the news outlet, “This hearing should take place with CEOs … otherwise, should we understand that the European Parliament does not matter?�

Sources told FT that some Big Tech CEOs could send legal professionals on competition and tax issues to the hearing, because experts will be better able to speak about the subjects.

New draft rules associated with Europe’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA) would expand EU regulators’ ability to contain Big Tech. DMA draft regulations would compel Big Tech platforms to allow third-party software firms to use their platforms and services. The DSA would mandate transparency regarding how algorithms are used to target online advertising.

The EU warned big tech firms in December 2020 that if they don’t police the content on their platforms, they will be subject to fines. Proposed new rules would mandate more transparency.

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