The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) refiled an antitrust case against social media titan Facebook. The FTC argues that the company should be broken up and forced to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.
The filing asserts that Facebook has a monopoly over social networking in the US, actively making it difficult for other companies to compete. The full details of the filing are under wraps, as the FTC asked for it to be sealed for ten days.
The case cites an email from 2008, in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says, “It is better to buy than to compete.” This statement represents the company’s years-long strategy in dealing with potential competitors.
In the past few years, Facebook bought the messaging service WhatsApp and the social media site Instagram. Together, these platforms occupy most of the average Westerner’s free time. They serve for entertainment, newsgathering, and day-to-day communication.
Facebook acquires companies from other industries that see less spotlight, too, like the cloud company Scape Technologies. Concerns over monopolies often span multiple areas.
Facebook’s messaging service saw less use than WhatsApp. Rather than competing with it, the giant simply bought it.
The same happened with Instagram. Its unique format stoked a lot of engagement. Rather than attempting to compete, Facebook absorbed the service.
Companies like Facebook have a way of “snowballing”—the bigger they are, the bigger they can get with increased speed. This could stifle competition, kill innovation, and ultimately subjugate users to a single entity.
Without viable alternative services, a monopoly can set its own prices. This would leave users without a choice, as they won’t have better options. These are some of the reasons antitrust groups attempt to take monopolies to task.
It remains to be seen how this situation will play out, as Facebook shows no signs of slowing down.