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."