Is Facebook a monopoly? The recent outage of Facebook apps, which affected billions of people around the world, has renewed the Facebook breakup debate. Senator Elizabeth Warren has been a prominent champion for splitting up the big tech companies to preserve competition.
Facebook is a successful social media company, operating multiple social media apps, including prominent brands such as Instagram and WhatsApp. Its family of apps serves more than 3.5 billion people. The company primarily makes its money by offering advertising on its platform, and business is booming—Facebook turned a profit of almost $30 billion in 2020, up $18 billion from the previous year. Facebook stock has also rewarded investors well.
Is Facebook a monopoly?
The company controls more than 70 percent of the social media market in the U.S. and even more globally, according to StatCounter. Facebook’s success has brought its practices under public and regulatory scrutiny. Critics of the company argue it has become a monopoly that has succeeded by treating its rivals unfairly.
Critics say Facebook buys out its smaller rivals to reduce competition and frustrate those that reject its overtures. Facebook acquisitions that have come under scrutiny amid the monopoly debate include Instagram and WhatsApp. In the case of Snapchat, it turned down Facebook’s buyout offer, and Facebook responded by copying popular Snapchat features.
Should Facebook be broken up?
There have been many calls to break up Facebook, particularly undoing its acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has also sued the company, calling it a monopoly and seeking its breakup.
Whereas Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes also supports splitting up the company, other Facebook executives have strongly opposed the idea. For example, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued that breaking up American’s big tech companies would only allow their Chinese rivals to dominate the global stage. Facebook competes with TikTok, a popular social app controlled by a Chinese company. Zuckerberg has also defended Facebook against the monopoly label, saying that the company has many successful competitors.
Elizabeth Warren on Facebook breaking up
Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has been a leading voice in the big tech breakup call. She has singled out Amazon, Google, and Facebook as needing to be broken apart because they’re a threat to competition.
After a system configuration fault caused a global outage of Facebook services lasting six hours on Oct. 4, 2021, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez renewed her support for Warren’s call to break up the company.
Will Facebook be broken up?
President Joe Biden has said that he isn’t a fan of Facebook or its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Biden thinks Zuckerberg is a problem and has issued an executive order seeking to control big tech companies' oversized influence on the market.
To worsen matters for Facebook, whistleblower Frances Haugen has detailed the company’s alleged lack of interest in fighting hate speech and misinformation on its platforms. She says Zuckerberg has overwhelming control over Facebook’s operations, and that the company needs to be more closely regulated. But Facebook has strongly rejected her claims, saying that it has done a lot to fight harmful content on its network.
It appears breaking up big tech companies isn’t going to be easy, though. A court threw out an earlier FTC case against Facebook that sought to have the company split apart, stating that the regulator’s claims that Facebook was a monopoly weren't justified.