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Facebook: Passing Go or Going To Jail?


Led by New York's general attorney, Letitia James, Facebook has been accused of monopolisation and breaking anti-trust laws by the US government and 48 states and districts. The argument is that Facebook bought its highest competitors, like Instagram and WhatsApp, with the aim of having complete social media dominance and control.  

Facebook bought Instagram for $1bn (£760m) in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19bn (£11.4bn) in 2014. As the table below shows, from 2010 to 2019 the top 4 most used apps are Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram - all of which Facebook own. It is argued that by Facebook owning the most used apps, they have bought out any real competition, and therefore, controlling the market and humanity. This topic links to that of my previous article on the Netflix docu-drama The Social Dilemma, where it explores how social media completely controls us. And due to its overarching power, Facebook has this control of humanity; humanity which is solely immersed in the world of social media. With this, Facebook also has dominance over our data and activity over the majority of our social media use. As a user myself, and someone who is aware of Facebook possessing all of my data, why do I, and we, continue to use its apps? Why do we put ourselves in a position where Facebook can invade our privacy?     

Source: App Annie via BBC 

Facebook (including Messenger), Instagram and WhatsApp offer different users different things, but does this work in Facebook's (as a company rather than an app) favour or not? Speaking from a Gen Z perspective, I am part of, if not the last, age group that has an active Facebook account, and I only mainly use it to remain connected with old school friends or distant relatives who I do not have on other platforms. Facebook has become a stage for the 'Karens' of the world, so to remain relevant and current did Facebook feel the need to buy the up and coming apps used by the up and coming members of social media - the Gen Zs and even Gen Alpha? Instagram is THE app where people post their 'life' (or the life they want to portray), through photos and WhatsApp is THE messaging app, that connects people on both professional and personal levels. By Facebook buying WhatsApp and Instagram, they not only bought apps with different ways of connecting people but also bought the varied users that came with these apps too.         

On the other hand (and with reference to the below table) why would Facebook need to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, when it still remains THE most used and searched social media platform? Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly users, compared to WhatsApp's 1.5 billion and Instagram's 1 billion.  Via the Guardian, Jennifer Newstead, Facebook's Vice-President and General Counsel, stated that "people and small businesses don’t choose to use Facebook’s free services and advertising because they have to, they use them because our apps and services deliver the most value. We are going to vigorously defend people’s ability to continue making that choice.” Here, Facebook is placing complete importance on their user satisfaction and free-will, but is social media based on free-will or entrapment?  

Source: Google Trends

If the suit is successful, Facebook will be required to "open its platform to software developers, divest from apps that have given it such vast market control and would need approval for any future mergers or acquisitions." 

It is undeniable that Facebook has had a huge impact on the growth of social media, where people can stay connected, informed and entertained. Whatever the result, will Facebook continue to dominate or will this law suit de-construct it?   

Google Trends 

By Abigail Gamble 

A recent BA English graduate, who loves to travel and the theatre.

Facebook: Passing Go or Going To Jail? Reviewed by Abigail Gamble on Monday, January 11, 2021 Rating: 5
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