Like many professional families, mine is spending most of our time at home. I watch our younger daughter while my wife works, then we swap. I cheat, though, letting my daughter watch Amazon Prime Video on her iPad while I Slack on mine. Everywhere in the house, the pandemic takes things away and technology offers recompense. My son, a recent college graduate, works upstairs, doing digital marketing on Facebook. My older daughter attends college on Zoom, from her bedroom. We just replaced her pink childhood bed with a queen. Amazon delivered the mattress, which it also manufactured.
The fusion of technology’s rule and the pandemic’s chaos felt particularly poignant yesterday, as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust grilled Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Apple’s Tim Cook, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Google’s Sundar Pichai. The proceedings started an hour late, and the four CEOs all appeared virtually. As I waited for the hearing to start, the feed of the nearly empty room in the Rayburn House Office Building seemed hauntingly apt: Lawmakers mingled, masked amid their nation’s pandemic failure, awaiting remote testimony from its industrial lords, who were unmoved by the material world. Photographers knelt awkwardly before the testimony table, pointing their lenses at the empty witness chair, perhaps taking symbolic, meme-worthy photos of its void.
The Silence of the Never Facebookers
The congressional inquiry wasn’t focused on the pandemic, but rather on alleged abuses of monopoly power: Google’s dominance in the digital-ad market, Apple’s control of software in its App Store, Amazon’s treatment of third-party sellers, and Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of large competitors. The CEOs mostly danced around or denied these accusations.