Considering the size of the fish which are circling Facebook, you have to wonder whether a group harbouring such unrealistic demands will even register on the social media giants radar.
Aside from various governments challenging the way in which the company collects, protects and uses personal information, Freedom From Facebook is the latest advocacy group to contest the social media giants dominant position in the world of messaging. Facebook is a political punching bag at the moment, and while the Cambridge Analytica scandal is likely to impact the way information is collected and used for targeted advertising, the extremity of Freedom From Facebook’s demands questions whether anyone will take the group seriously.
“The FTC should spin off Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into competing networks, require interoperability, so we have the freedom to communicate across social networks, and impose strong privacy rules that empower and protect us,” the group states on its new webpage.
So here is what the group is demanding. Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger should be spun off to form separate business, however, the platforms should be forced to allow users on competing social networks to communicate with one another. Another demand is focused on increasing privacy rules and data protection, which is reasonable.
The issue here is splitting up the Facebook empire. While it is a valiant crusade to erode the influence of Facebook on today’s society, asking the FTC to force the spin-offs of acquired assets is essentially asking for the key to the Pandora’s box of acquisitions. Once precedent is set through this example, who is to say how many challenges there would be to other companies who have manufactured themselves into a dominant market position through intelligent acquisition.
Should Disney be forced to dissemble its empire after acquiring Pixar in 2006 and Marvel in 2009? Exxon bought Mobil in 1998 making it the world’s 10th largest company by revenue, perhaps this would be considered an unfair position. Back in 2005, Google bought Android for $50 million (an absurdly low figure in retrospect) giving it a dominant position in terms of data collection. If Facebook is forced to water down its control over messaging, surely Google’s position would have to be questioned. Staying in the tech world, Amazon bought Souq in 2017, often referred to as the ‘Amazon of the Middle-East’, consolidating its position as the world’s leading eCommerce business.
Should the FTC force Facebook to scale back on the grounds of creating a dominant market through acquisition, chaos would break loose. Pretty much every market leader would be challenging on the grounds of distorting competition. Precedent is the saviour and the demon of the legal world.
Facebook should be prevented from acquiring any competitors, or platforms which could be considered a future competitor to the business. This market is distorted enough already. However, forcing the spin-off on the reasoning of Freedom From Facebook is completely unreasonable and dangerous.