When it comes to protecting users’ privacy and fighting the spread of misinformation, Facebook is getting worse.
So claims a 449-page congressional report released Tuesday, which pins Facebook’s multitude of failings, at least in part, on a troubling lack of competition in the social networking space. Facebook, in other words, is a monopoly — and we’re all suffering as a result.
The report is the result of a 15-month investigation into the anticompetitive practices of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, and is the work of the bipartisan House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. It pulls no punches in condemning the tech and advertising giant that swallowed up potential competitors like Instagram and WhatsApp in its path.
Notably, the report finds that Facebook’ long-held stance that it’s not a monopoly because it has “a lot of competitors” is mostly BS.
“Facebook’s position that it lacks monopoly power and competes in a dynamic market is not supported by the documents it produced to the Committee during the investigation,” reads the House report. “Instead, Facebook’s internal business metrics show that Facebook wields monopoly power.”
That’s right, the report concludes that even Facebook’s own internal data shows the outward-facing line of social media competitors aplenty to be untrue.
“In the absence of competition,” continues the report, “Facebook’s quality has deteriorated over time, resulting in worse privacy protections for its users and a dramatic rise in misinformation on its platform.”
We reached out to Facebook for comment on the report’s findings — namely that Facebook’s monopoly power contributes to worse privacy outcomes for users and an increase in dangerous misinformation (like that of the just partially banned group QAnon) — but received no immediate response.
That’s OK, however, because the House committee doesn’t need Facebook to weigh in on one of the report’s key recommendations: “Structural separations and prohibitions of certain dominant platforms from operating in adjacent lines of business.”
Essentially, break the companies up.
Other recommendations include preemptively blocking future mergers and acquisitions, making it easier for users to move their data from one platform to another, and safe harbor protections for media outlets.
The proposal guaranteed to turn the most heads, however, is the aforementioned separation. While that recommendation has received pushback from at least one Republican on the committee, it is likely to find broad support among the American public. A Consumer Reports survey, cited in the House report, found that 79 percent of Americans “think that mergers and acquisitions pursued by large platforms are unfair because they undermine competition and limit consumer choice.”
It turns out that breaking up Big Tech might just be the one thing Americans can agree on — assuming misinformation spread via Facebook doesn’t change their minds first.