Zuckerberg Dismisses The Idea That Facebook Is A Monopoly

Senator Graham showing Facebook's entire ToS

The first of the two Congressional hearings started today, with multiple Senators each getting five minutes to question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the company’s data policies. One of the questions specifically asked Zuckerberg whether or not he believes that Facebook is a monopoly. He answered that he doesn’t feel like it is.

Does Facebook Have Direct Competitors?

Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina asked Zuckerberg to name his company’s biggest competitor. Zuckerberg didn’t seem willing to name a direct competitor and instead wanted to name “categories of competitors."

Senator Graham pushed him to state whether or not he believes Facebook has a direct competitor in the same way car companies have many direct competitors, which allow consumers to easily switch from one brand to another. Seeing as Zuckerberg was still unwilling to provide a direct response to this line of questioning, the senator asked him if Facebook is a monopoly, and Zuckerberg rejected that idea.

Is Facebook A Social Media Monopoly?

To most of us, it probably does appear that Facebook is a social media monopoly, because there’s no other social media company that comes even close to Facebook’s network of 2.2 billion users.

The closest competition that Zuckerberg could name were chat applications, some of which do have hundreds of millions of users. These chats do also provide users a way to communicate with each other, but it’s still not quite social media in the same vein as Facebook. Therefore, the correct answer to Senator Graham’s question would be that there is no large competitor to which users could just flock tomorrow, if they could.

Part of the reason why it’s so difficult to leave a social network is also because the bigger the social networks are, the better they become in the sense that all of your friends and acquaintances are on it. That’s how they become more valuable to each individual.

Facebook’s Terms Of Services Are Not Human-Readable

To make a point about the fact that consumers can’t be the parties most responsible for the Cambridge Analytica data leak (and others), even if they “agreed” to Facebook’s Terms of Service (ToS), Graham showed everyone a large stack of paper, containing at least dozens of pages of Facebook’s complete ToS.

He then asked Zuckerberg whether or not he believed that the average Facebook user can even read that ToS, to which Zuckerberg replied that they would not. Zuckerberg added that Facebook will do a better job at presenting the privacy policies in an easier to understand way.

Facebook And Regulations

Facebook was asked by multiple senators about his opinions on regulating the social media platform. Zuckerberg was cautious in responding to these questions. However, he welcomed the prospect of some regulations, such as having transparency rules to show who spends money for political ads on Facebook, or regulations that would make it easier for users to understand how Facebook and other companies use their data. Zuckerberg didn't completely agree with the GDPR regulations, but he said the Europeans "have done some things right."

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • alextheblue
    Lizard people don't believe in monopolies.
  • wirefire
    This isn't really a fair assessment of the situation. First off Zuckerberg did not know what his creation would one day become. MySpace and others at the time were serious competitors and Facebook emerged as the big winner. This has happened before (Intel) and (Bell Atlantic) and other companies that started out at the center of competition but ended up being monopolies. Is Facebook a monopoly? there is definitely a case to be made but they don't "sell" anything material. There is no true "need" serviced my Facebook, they service the desire of people to communicate.
  • mihen
    If the validity of a ToS is determined by if people can read it, than 99% of all laws are invalid.
  • boju
    Where's Lester when you need him :D kidding.

  • Co BIY
    "No senator, there are plenty of high tech companies that can sell you detailed personal targeting data for your next political campaign. But we feel we can provide real value added and would like your business!"

    Their primary business is what they get paid for, not what they give away for free.
  • elbert
    Facebook isn't because that would be like AMD is a monopoly because its has both CPU's and discrete GPU's. IE Nvidia doesn't do both nor does Intel. Facebook has tweeter and email to compete with on messaging. A whole host of picture sites on their photo uploads compete with Facebook. Same goes for each part of Facebook. They are just the only company that brings the full package together.
  • stdragon
    Feds are threatened. Facebook is encroaching in the domain occupied by the NSA. So, this hearing is nothing more than Congress letting the Zuck know who's boss in this area.
  • SteveRNG
    Not that I want to be the dictionary nerd, but I will do it: "the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service."

    Facebook does not have a monopoly to its user-base. Since we as users don't pay for it and are not obligated to use it, nobody can say the control the supply of ??? social media access? We can go anywhere else to communicate with people and we can post cat pictures elsewhere as well.

    Where they may be a monopoly is to the people who pay to access our data and advertise. Except that I don't believe they are there, either. There are many places to advertise on the internet and Advertisers can get data from other sources (Google, for one). Now, as far as directly funneling our personal information to bad actors: nobody does it better.