Facebook facing breakup?
The US consumer protection agency FTC and 46 US state prosecutors are taking legal action to break up Facebook on the grounds that the social network's market position is too dominant and stifles competition. They say the company should sell Instagram and Whatsapp and facilitate access to its programming interfaces and data, and that future acquisitions must subject to advance scrutiny by competition authorities. Not all observers feel the action is justified.
Rules also needed for the digital economy
Measures to rein in the Internet giants are crucial, says Hospodářské noviny:
“The Internet has become a kind of public service like water or electricity. It makes a digital economy possible whose rulers believe, as Rockefeller and contemporaries once did, that no one and nothing can constrain them. But there must be rules. It is empirically proven that digital giants manipulate their customers to make a profit. ... A byproduct is the damage this does to pluralism of opinion and thus to liberal democracy. It is often convenient for the consumer to opt for what the algorithm offers/dictates. But when this leads the customer/voter to a dead end, for example when they can't see any other options/products, it has to stop. The user is being deprived of the basic right to freedom of choice.”
Life in the golden era of online competition
To accuse Facebook of having a monopoly is to ignore the reality of the situation, The Daily Telegraph argues:
“The FTC thinks that WhatsApp and Instagram could have been competitors. If so, they are just two among thousands. There are countless services that allow people to share, connect and communicate, from Twitter and YouTube to WeChat, TikTok, and Zoom. Each one of these are competing for our attention, along with many more dorm room startups - for which the internet has very few barriers to entry. If anything we are living in a golden era of online competition.”
Users won't be happy
The concentration of services in just a few hands also has advantages, the Tages-Anzeiger counters:
“What competition watchdogs, data protectionists, competitors and more and more politicians regard with horror is the very opposite for users. ... That is the huge dilemma behind all the lawsuits against the tech companies: the users are not breaking out in spontaneous applause. Because nobody wants five different messenger systems, nobody wants to use x different search engines, nobody wants to search for their apps in umpteen different app stores, and we all hate the cookie warnings at the bottom of websites. And this is exactly what the tech giants are banking on.”
An opportunity for a new social media era
It's better to rethink our values late than not at all, Yetkin Report puts in:
“Did it really have to come to this? Did Facebook's managers have to wait until they encountered huge problems in every country? ... When social media were still in their infancy, we thought they would become a platform for open ideas with the potential to unite the world and increase people's sense of community. But with greed ruining all of our dreams, not only Facebook but also all the rest of us missed out on an important opportunity. ... If these lawsuits are successful, we will live with an entirely different understanding of social media in the 2020s. Perhaps we will enter the 2030s with a social media structure that prioritizes human values rather than profit.”