Mark Zuckerberg knew this was coming. Unlike Google, which successfully cozied up to lefties, leading a lot of Democrat AGs to stay away from the DOJ’s attack on Google, Democrats hated it because the platform was filled with older Trump voters, and Republicans hated it because it kept censoring Trump voters.
Faced with a no-win scenario, Zuckerberg alternated between free speech arguments before pivoting to a comprehensive censorship crackdown before the election. That didn’t win over Democrats, but lost whatever goodwill Facebook had built up with its outreach to Republicans. That doesn’t mean Facebook is gone, but it’s got a tough battle ahead. And it’s going to be even tougher because Democrats blame it for 2016 and Republicans blame it for 2020. Everyone wants it broken up.
Now the FTC lawsuit, backed by most of the country’s AGs, is here.
The Federal Trade Commission today sued Facebook, alleging that the company is illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct. Following a lengthy investigation in cooperation with a coalition of attorneys general of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the complaint alleges that Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy—including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anticompetitive conditions on software developers—to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This course of conduct harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.
The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things: require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp; prohibit Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers; and require Facebook to seek prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions.
The anticompetitive stuff refers to behavior that’s ubiquitous for Apple, Google, Amazon, etc… but this could set an important precedent.
Breaking up Facebook is simple enough, but also somewhat meaningless at least as far as practices on its main platform for conservatives are concerned. Unlike Google, which could be successfully broken up, breaking up Facebook will mean spinning off Instagram, Whatsapp, etc, which would potentially turn Facebook into MySpace, a dying platform with no way to expand past its limited lifespan, exactly the nightmarish scenario Zuckerberg wanted to avoid.
The stock value drops, investors flee, and the collapse becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Zuckerberg leaves, and a skeleton crew tries to keep it afloat.
But how would this affect conservatives?
The collapse of Facebook as the uber-social platform could, in theory, open up opportunities for alternatives like Parler. Or it could finally open the door for Google to build a social networking platform that finally works for the ultimately nightmare scenario. Ideally, there would be a host of competitors who would be less keen on alienating users. Maybe.
Considering the trend away from comprehensive platforms like Facebook, the odds are that the investment money would chase trending teen apps like TikTok.
Meanwhile the core Facebook platform would remain and would even more aggressively chase the younger users it can’t have in order to convince investors that it still has growth potential. It’s not at all impossible that such a company would try to entirely shed its older and more conservative user base.
Either that or it would continue the same balancing act.
As I’ve said before, there are two issues tied up in Facebook’s censorship of conservatives.
1. The inability of conservatives to use Facebook to reach other conservatives
2. The inability of conservatives to use Facebook to reach non-conservatives
The second here is more crucial than the first. The problem isn’t just conservatives finding an alternative to Facebook. It’s that Facebook is a powerful tool for conservatives to reach persuadable people. That was a big part of President Trump’s win in 2016. And finding a conservative alternative to Facebook will be easier than duplicating the Facebook effect on non-conservatives.