The news that Facebook plans to integrate Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp is expected to raise anti-trust issues again. It could also put the company under more intense regulatory scrutiny. It’s not a good place to be for a business that’s already under a microscope.
A recent New York Times report stated that the social networking giant has plans to merge the technical framework of platforms of its sister companies. IG, Messenger, and WhatsApp applications will still function as distinct services though.
Some antitrust lawyers believe that it’s unlikely Facebook’s latest plan will bring a more antitrust action against it. It hasn’t stopped the public from speculating though.
People have already started to voice their concerns. Representative Ro Khanna from California tweeted that there should have been “more scrutiny during Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp” and said it should have raised antitrust concerns then.
Rough Year for Social Media Giant
2018 was a difficult year for Mark Zuckerberg and his team. The company is still facing pressure over its privacy policies and how the platform was manipulated by foreign players.
During November’s meeting of international lawyers in the UK last November, Charlie Angus, a representative from Canada stated that all they’re doing is regulating the symptoms. He also posited that antitrust could be the answer to Facebook’s dilemma.
Law professor Daniel Crane of the University of Michigan said Facebook’s plan to integrate its entities doesn’t concern antitrust law. He did raise the question of why the company was permitted to own three media outlets.
Facebook’s problems with regulators didn’t start until last year when its privacy issues started to become apparent. It even reached the point where founder and CEO Zuckerberg was forced to head to Washington and respond to legislator’s questions on whether the popular social media network should be regulated.
Because of this, every decision Facebook makes is considered sensitive. There are also more eyes watching the company’s every move.
Facebook had previously claimed that Instagram and WhatsApp would remain separate, and this has been true so far. An FTC letter about the then planned acquisition of WhatsApp quoted one company spokesperson stating that “WhatsApp will operate as a separate company and will honor its commitments to privacy and security.”
A different Times report from Facebook’s purchase of Instagram emphasized that the two companies had “expressed their commitment to run Instagram as an independent service.”
Facebook underlined in a statement that was recently emailed to news outlets that their plan regarding the messaging platforms was intended as a way to provide “fast, simple, reliable and private” services that are also secure.
What’s Next for Today’s Companies and Antitrust
Facebook admitted that they expected the decision to generate a lot of debates and discussion while they start with the complex process of understanding all the fine details on how the merger will work.
It should be pointed out that Facebook isn’t the only high-profile company in the antitrust spotlight. Google has levied fines amounting to billions by European regulators. They claimed Google abused its standing as a mobile platform and search engine.
Questions are also being asked now on whether Amazon has become too powerful and large in e-commerce.
Another law professor, Barak Orbach of the University of Arizona, said it was inevitable that antitrust laws would be changed as the economy evolves and changes. He stated that legislation has simply not caught up with today’s technological platforms and how modern businesses are run.
Orbach pointed out that antitrust was first created during the industrial revolution of the 19th century. There’s a massive gap between the turn of the century and today and antitrust has to change to meet the demands of this newest industrial revolution.