The EU’s competition commissioner believes breaking up tech giants like Facebook is yet to be a necessary solution. Margrethe Vestager spoke on the matter at the Lisbon Web Summit in Lisbon, following concerns by some prominent figures in the industry and US politics.
In an op-ed in May, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes expressed his belief that Facebook has a social media monopoly and should be broken up. He estimates that it holds more than 80% of the world’s social media revenue and says its CEO’s plan has always been domination.
However, Vestager believes such a move would be unlikely to resolve the big issues and should be used as a last resort.
“From a competition point of view, you would have to do something where breaking up the company was the only solution to illegal behavior,” she said. “We don’t have that kind of case right now. I will never exclude that that could happen. But so far, we don’t have a problem that big, where breaking up a company would be the solution.”
The Hydra Dilemma
Her sentiment echoes that of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who said in September he opposes such an idea. Splitting a company in two rather than banning abusive behavior only means two companies will perform the acts rather than one, he argues.
Of course, Microsoft was hit by a landmark anti-trust case back in 2001 that almost resulted in the company being split up. Eventually, the ruling was revoked, but not without the company agreeing to a number of regulations like sharing its APIs.
After a term of tough decisions that involve a total of $9.41 billion in fines for Google, Vestager has been instated for another five years. This time, she’ll have an expanded role that includes technology policy as well as anti-trust. Like Gates, though, she said “if you know the story about a kind of creature, when you chopped off one head … I think one, two, or seven came out.”
Instead, she wants to see more companies taking action on abusive behavior, instead of just saying they will. Vestager points to Twitter as a positive example after the platform banned political advertising.
As for which service Vestager is scrutinizing next – it’s Apple Pay. According to Reuters, she said at the Libson conference that the EU has “been asking quite a number of questions” to the iPhone maker. Meanwhile, she noted concerns about Facebook’s digital currency Libra, which has s