Facebook messaging merger sparks antitrust concerns

Facebook and whatsapp apps
Facebook and whatsapp apps

Facebook messaging merger sparks antitrust concerns

With little oversight, horizontal mergers have hindered free market competition
January 29, 2019

A New York Times report on Facebook’s plan to integrate three of its messaging apps – WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger – has some lawmakers and regulators kicking themselves for not doing more to scrutinize the acquisitions that ultimately resulted in the company’s effort to corner the market on messaging.

The prospect of merging the three messaging services has raised questions about security and privacy while also sparking a debate about how the social media titan came to have so much power – and whether regulation should have stood in the way of any of the company’s more than 70 acquisitions. “This is why there should have been far more scrutiny during Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which now clearly seem like horizontal mergers that should have triggered antitrust scrutiny,” tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna, who represents Silicon Valley in Congress. “Imagine how different the world would be if Facebook had to compete with Instagram and WhatsApp. That would have encouraged real competition that would have promoted privacy and benefited consumers.”

While Facebook is arguably facing more scrutiny today than it ever has before and the appetite for regulation is strong on both sides of the aisle, those who want to break up the company (and others like it) face a more difficult challenge in forcing Facebook to spin off one of its acquisitions like WhatsApp or Instagram than they might have in halting Facebook from gobbling up its erstwhile competitors. For Congress members like Khanna, hindsight is 20/20.

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.