And so it begins: FTS requests breakup of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp
US regulator seeks to dismantle Facebook empire
Look back to July this year, when US congress seemed to fumble through the first major big tech and social media CEO antitrust hearing. I noticed at the time two key lines from the performing senators, which signalled what was ahead for social networks and the power they now yield.
A major moment back in July, for me, from senator Jayapal: "Facebook is a case study... in monopoly power because your company harvests and monetizes our data and then your company uses that data to spy on competitors and to copy and acquire and kill rivals. You’ve used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors, and to ensure that you always get your way. These tactics reinforce Facebook’s dominance, which you then use in increasingly destructive ways so Facebook’s very model makes it impossible for new companies to flourish separately, and that harms our democracy, it harms mom and pop stores, and it harms consumers."
And the conclusion, from Committee Chairman David Cicilline:
"This hearing has made one fact clear to me: these companies as they exist today have monopoly power. Some need to be broken up, all need to be properly regulated and held accountable. We need to ensure the antitrust laws first written more than a century ago work in the digital age."
Fast forward to today, and in the last hour some monumental news has emerged from the US regulators, who have put forward a case stating accusing Facebook of anticompetitive behaviour by buying up rising rivals - namely Instagram and WhatsApp - to cement its dominance in the social media space. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has called for Facebook to be broken away from Instagram and WhatsApp, and for there to be new restrictions on future deals.
As the New York Times puts it, “The Federal Trade Commission and 48 states accused Facebook on Wednesday of becoming a monopoly by squashing competition by buying rivals Instagram and WhatsApp. The legal battle could dismantle some of the world's most popular communication services.”
It is plain, to me, to see what lies ahead. A tighter industry for the social networks, akin to other more regulated industries, and more accountability all round.