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Facebook’s Latest Scheme to Kill Competition: Data Portability

Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:26 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated September 23, 2020 2:26 PM
  • Facebook now has nearly 3 billion users across the globe.
  • The social media giant’s strategy of “copy, acquire and kill” startups that threaten its dominance is well known.
  • The Mark Zuckerberg-led firm is now the subject of several antitrust investigations.

No social media giant is as well-populated or ubiquitous as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Around the world, social media users don’t have anything that comes close to an alternative.

But if Facebook has its way, a piece of legislation allowing the transfer of photos and videos  between rival social media platforms could become law. That’s bound to level the playing field, right?

Not quite!

Any keen observer of the Mark Zuckerberg-led social media giant will tell you that Facebook only gives ground when it has something to gain. Or when it has more to lose by not yielding.

Why Mark Zuckerberg Is Suddenly Pushing for Data Portability

Last week, Facebook sent comments supporting data portability legislation to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Facebook will hold a hearing with the antitrust and consumer protection body next month.

Facebook’s embrace of data portability legislation comes amid growing complaints of anti-competitive behavior by the social media giant. It is already facing several antitrust investigations .

Besides an FTC investigation, New York Attorney General Letitia James is probing Facebook. The House Judiciary Committee is investigating Facebook, too. Interestingly, the social media giant has donated heavily to members of the committee .

The House Judiciary Committee that’s investigating Facebook is one of the largest beneficiaries of the company’s donations. | Source: @hunterschwarz/Twitter 

It is not inconceivable that Facebook’s only goal is to push for relatively harmless legislation. This will allow it to fend off more meaningful regulatory action. In other words, to maintain the status quo.

Facebook’s Half Measures

The move to appease, forestall, and fend off meaningful regulation does not even give justice to the term “data portability.”

For starters, Facebook is only advocating for the data porting of photos and videos. It is not yet open to allowing contacts and friend lists to be shared. Facebook has said that this will happen eventually.

Remember when Facebook promised it wouldn’t share user data between WhatsApp  and its main app after it acquired the messaging app? Well, it broke its word. 

Why Data Portability Legislation Is Not Good Enough for Facebook’s Rivals

It is no secret that Facebook has heavily relied on copying, acquiring, or destroying startup rivals to maintain growth and dominance.

With nearly 3 billion users across the world, over $50 billion cash in hand , and a market cap of over $750 billion, few can match Facebook’s power.

Facebook has not grown to a user base of nearly 3 billion by playing “nice.” | Source: @eaEconomy/Twitter 

During the antitrust hearing last month , Facebook’s strategy of keeping competitors away from gobbling its lunch was well outlined.

Last month Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal accused Facebook of employing the “copy, acquire, and kill” strategy to maintain a near-monopoly. Mark Zuckerberg was at pains to deny this categorically. Watch the video below:

The Art of Dominating

Most recently, Facebook’s strategy of copying rivals  has been evident. In the case of TikTok, for instance, Facebook introduced a short-form video feature on Instagram after its standalone app meant to fend off TikTok failed.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook’s latest product, Instagram Reels, is copied from the ByteDance-owned TikTok. | Source: @rafaelshimunov/Twitter 

Instagram, on the other hand, was an acquisition that came after Zuckerberg reportedly threatened to destroy the app.

Facebook’s embrace of data portability is also arising out of inevitability. The European Union has already made data portability a requirement under the bloc’s privacy law known as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Facebook is not advocating for the legislation out of the goodness of its heart. It is doing so because putting it off is not viable. Such law is meant to inflict minimal pain on Facebook while possibly forestalling a more significant impact.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com and should not be considered investment or trading advice from CCN.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author holds no investment position in the above-mentioned securities.