Monopolistic behavior:’ is AOC right Facebook should be broken up?
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also known as AOC, serves as New York’s representative for the 14th congressional district.
- On October 4, 2021, AOC tweeted in response to Facebook’s shutdown, “If Facebook’s monopolistic behavior was checked back when it should’ve been (perhaps around the time it started acquiring competitors like Instagram), the continents of people who depend on WhatsApp & IG for either communication or commerce would be fine right now. Break them up.”
- Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp experienced a power outage on Monday for almost six hours that was blamed on a “faulty configuration change.”
- Mark Zuckerberg launched the groundbreaking social media platform Facebook on February 4, 2004. He was a Harvard sophomore at the time.
- Zuckerberg has been under recent scrutiny for Facebook’s data privacy and Russian disinformation in March 2021. In 2018, Congress brought Zuckerberg in to testify over Facebook’s privacy policies.
- In Glassdoor’s 2021 CEO ranking, Zuckerberg dropped off the list of “Top CEOs” for the first time since 2013, however, he got an 88% approval rating which is higher than the average 73% CEO rating.
- According to Pew Research Center, Facebook has over 2.8 billion monthly users around the world. In 2019, 59% of adults said they did not trust Facebook as a political news source, but a 2020 poll showed that 36% of adults still used Facebook as a news source.
On October 4th, Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram went down for seven hours. The blackout catalyzed worldwide pandemonium as businesses, professionals, and families could not utilize their primary forms of communication. Facebook dominates the social media sphere, disavowing other platforms to flourish, and its monopoly on communication and news is limiting.
Despite evidence confirming Facebook is spreading fake information and encouraging hate, the company has not made any movement in correcting these infractions. Whistleblower Frances Haugen, who was a data scientist for Facebook, testified that the social media platform causes 'division, harm, lies, and combat.' Haugen continues, Facebook 'intentionally hides vital information from the public, US government, and governments around the world.'
Aside from over-influencing public opinion, it's clear to see why Facebook's monopoly endangers free society. In the event of a service outage, millions of people around the globe are left without a familiar means of communication or news. Facebook's monopoly prevents other social media platforms and news outlets from introducing new perspectives, policies, and best practices into the industry.
In light of these revelations, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightfully called for Facebook to release its monopolistic hold on social media, therefore establishing an equal playing field for consumers and businesses.
Conversely, Facebook is fully aware their platforms are mentally damaging to teenagers, yet they have taken no measures to rectify the issue. Considering the company's disinterest in serving the best interests of its audience, it should no longer remain in control of global communication and news distribution.
Multiple times Facebook has chosen profits over safety and ethics and also actively publishes misinformation. As such, the company cannot remain the main conduit of the world's communication and news platforms.
The government should stay out of regulating social media in any way. Online discourse is an essential part of our first amendment right to freedom of speech. Once the government starts determining how Facebook can operate or what companies it can acquire, it's a small step to government regulation of what can be said online, and freedom will be lost.
Historically, breaking up industries has failed. Attempts to disrupt big railroad, big oil, and big phone all resulted in the smaller pieces eventually coming back together and ending up bigger than they were initially. Additionally, past corporate breakups have not increased competition in the marketplace. If we break up Facebook, that doesn't necessarily allow new players in--we would just be using the four or five pieces of Facebook separately instead of altogether on one platform.
Facebook and other tech companies spend a significant amount on innovation and incubating startups. Amazon arguably hurts some small businesses, but they also provide a platform for other small businesses that would not otherwise be available. If we start breaking up big tech, we could hurt the entrepreneurs who currently use Facebook or Amazon for their business and inadvertently stifle new ideas and progress.
One of the reasons AOC cited for breaking up big tech is that many Latin American countries use Facebook products to communicate, and the outage caused problems for those populations. This may be true, but AOC is an elected representative of New York, which is in the United States, not anywhere in Latin America. She should put American companies and American interests ahead of those of other countries.