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Did glitch help Amazon escape early questions in Washington hearing?

(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc's chief executive, Jeff Bezos, escaped questioning for about an hour in a high-profile U.S. House of Representatives antitrust hearing here&feature=emb_logo on Wednesday in what may have been the result of a tech glitch.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks via video conference during a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law on "Online Platforms and Market Power", in the Rayburn House office Building on Capitol Hill, in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2020. Graeme Jennings/Pool via REUTERS/Files

Lawmakers, who held the hearing via videoconference, focused on asking the CEOs of Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc a barrage of questions on alleged abuses of market power.

Bezos was questioned intensely later on in the hearing. Any issue with his video stream would not have been the only technical challenge affecting the antitrust grilling in Washington, however.

Poor audio quality, flat-screen televisions going off, chief executives appearing together as thumbnails on a large screen - led to observers on Twitter and frustrated viewers to mock the virtual set-up.

The committee did not immediately comment on the issue.

“Worst zoom quiz night ever,” tweeted Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, sharing a screenshot of the executives shown in small side-by-side boxes.

The CEOs were later shown individually on large screens, leading some viewers to call on the Twitter account @ratemyskyperoom to judge their surroundings. Others criticized the executives’ sound quality or delayed audio.

It was not clear what happened with Amazon’s virtual feed, according to a congressional aide with direct knowledge of the matter.

Amazon did not immediately comment on the issue.

The committee also took a 10-minute break to fix technical issues for those in the hearing room.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington and Elizabeth Culliford in Birmingham, England; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Chris Sanders and Matthew Lewis

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