It just recently made a major step in unifying its messaging systems but Facebook might soon be facing pressure to break it up again. It is no secret that the US government wants to break up Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp due to the parent company’s influence in social as well as political spheres and Facebook’s numerous missteps in those same areas. Of course, Facebook won’t be taking it sitting down and the bottom line of its defense might boil down to “it’s too hard”.
Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp two years later. In both cases, the FTC cleared the deals without objection, though it reserved the right to revisit those deals at a later time. That “later time” seems to be nigh as that same government body is preparing to file a complaint against Facebook, a move that’s just part of a broader campaign by the US government to probe and limit Big Tech’s powers.
The Wall Street Journal obtained a copy of a 14-page paper that Facebook’s lawyers are preparing to present should government regulators pursue their threatened action. In a nutshell, Facebook calls this breakup a “complete nonstarter” because of how impossible it would be to unwind the deals years after they were approved and how much it would cost both the company in terms of finances as well as users in terms of the integrated experience Facebook is trying to push.
Unsurprisingly, at least one legal expert partial to breaking up Facebook calls the social media’s arguments “surprisingly weak”. Its “too hard” defense would probably have no legal weight and its argument that past government inaction, in this case, the FTC’s failure to object to the deals, should limit its current inaction might not have legal merit either.
The FTC’s antitrust case will most likely revolve around allegations that Facebook’s acquisition of the two social media companies was meant to stifle competition. In emails published by the House antitrust subcommittee, CEO Mark Zuckerberg was quoted to be buying Instagram to neutralize a competitor. Before the acquisition, Facebook faced difficulties toppling both Instagram and Snapchat, the latter of which remains a close competitor in this space.