Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google face claims of ‘harmful’ power

The heads of some of the world's biggest tech companies have appeared before lawmakers in Washington to defend their firms as critics call for them to be broken up.

Amazon boss Jeff Bezos said the world "needs large" firms, while the heads of Facebook, Apple and Google argued their companies had spurred innovation.

The appearance by the executives comes as US lawmakers consider tougher tech regulation.

Competition probes are also underway.

Congressman David Cicilline, a Democrat leading the congressional committee holding the hearing, said a year-long investigation by lawmakers had revealed patterns of abuse by the online platforms.

"The dominant platforms have wielded their power in destructive… ways in order to expand," he said.

'Out to get conservatives'

Critics say tech companies abuse their size and power to benefit their own products, and undercut or acquire rivals, depressing competition – and ultimately hurting the wider economy.

They say regulators charged with enforcing competition rules – known as anti-trust law in the US – have been too lax.

Concerns about their power have increased in Washington in recent years, and there is a sense the US has lagged behind Europe when it comes to taking action on issues such as competition and privacy.

Conservatives also accuse tech firms of suppressing conservative views and abusing their powers when it comes to free speech.

"I'll just cut to the chase – big tech is out to get conservatives," said Congressman Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio.

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