Facebook appears to have prepared an argument against breaking up Instagram and WhatsApp, according to a document seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The leaked document suggests that if Facebook were to be ordered by the government to split up its services, the company would argue that a breakup would be a “complete nonstarter.”
Lawmakers have contended that Facebook wields too much power in the tech ecosystem, which raises concerns about anticompetitive behavior. The FTC is said to be preparing an antitrust lawsuit before the end of the year, and the House could release its antitrust investigation results in October.
Lack of past FTC action
If talks of government regulation eventually become an actual plan, Facebook would reportedly argue that splitting up its services would be difficult to do -- and that doing so could hurt the user experience.
The company may plan to argue that its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were approved by the FTC without objections and that it invested a great deal of money in getting the services running as separate-but-integrated systems.
“In the paper, Facebook says unwinding the deals would be nearly impossible to achieve, forcing the company to spend billions of dollars maintaining separate systems, weakening security and harming users’ experience,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Facebook would argue that “a ‘breakup’ of Facebook is thus a complete nonstarter,” according to the 14-page document.
From a legal standpoint, Columbia University professor and tech policy expert Tim Wu says Facebook’s plan to pin the blame on the FTC for its past approval would be a “weak” defense. Wu said that Facebook’s contention that a breakup would be too difficult would also be a flimsy legal argument.
“There is no ‘it’s too hard’ defense,” Wu told the Journal.