Jul 30, 2020 - Technology

Top antitrust Democrat: There's a case to break up Facebook

Donkey holding facebook logo

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who ended Wednesday's hearing by saying some Big Tech companies need to be broken up, told Axios that Facebook in particular lacks significant competitors and should not have been allowed to buy Instagram and WhatsApp.

Why it matters: Cicilline chairs the antitrust subcommittee, which has been looking into competition issues in the digital space.

"Mr. Zuckerberg acknowledged in this hearing that his acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram were part of a plan to both buy a competitor and also maintain his money, power, or his dominance. That's classic monopoly behavior."
— Cicilline said on the "Axios Re:Cap" podcast

Cicilline's criticisms weren't limited to Facebook, pointing to the power Google and Amazon also hold in their respective markets.

  • "I think what we saw today was confirmation that these large technology platforms have enduring monopoly power," he said in the interview with Axios' Dan Primack.

The big picture: A key issue remains whether existing antitrust law is broad enough to address the modern tech industry, especially companies that provide their products at no direct charge to consumers.

  • "Congress is going to have to 'think outside the box' in a comprehensive way about what antitrust laws should look like in the 21st century," Neguse told Axios’ Ashley Gold after the hearing.

What's next: The committee plans to develop a set of recommendations and issue them in a final report as soon as late August, according to Cicilline.

You can listen to the podcast here.

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