Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg struggled in a congressional hearing over the alleged abuse of market power on Wednesday July 29, with lawmakers showing internal emails about the company’s acquisitions that proved to be damaging.
The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel provided an extensive amount of Facebook company emails, with screenshots of these emails showing correspondence from Zuckerberg and other executives.
Through these emails, lawmakers gathered that Zuckerberg acknowledged photo-sharing application Instagram as well as messaging application WhatsApp as competitors to Facebook prior to the company acquiring them.
In 2012, just two months before acquiring Instagram, Zuckerberg wrote that Whatsapp and Instagram pose threats as “if they grow to a large scale they could be very disruptive to us”.
In another email which was written on the same day that Facebook announced the purchase of Instagram, Zuckerberg claimed that “Instagram was our threat”, later on admitting that “one thing about startups though is you can often acquire them”.
Joe Neguse, a representative for Colorado’s second congressional district, claimed that an email in 2014 showed Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Wehner referred to the acquisition of Instagram as a “land grab”.
Neguse claimed that such acquisitions are what lead to a “monopoly”, something that is not tolerated.
The committee did not present as many exchanges to the other executives at the hearing, with the executives present including Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet Inc-owned Google’s Sundar Pichai, as well as Apple Inc’s Tim Cook.
When asked by Democratic Representative Pramil Jayapal over the copying of Snapchat by Facebook for anti-competitive reasons, Zuckerberg claimed that he did not know how many competitors Facebook end up copying.
Jayapal also asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook had ever threatened to clone a competitor’s feature whilst in talks to buy them, reminding him that he is “under other and there are quotes from Facebook’s own documents” on the matter.
The documents presented also showed how the company viewed the United States in 2012, claiming that Facebook is “95% of all social media in the U.S.”, with this graphic being titled “The industry consolidates as it matures.”
These allegations come after a string of legal actions taken against Mark Zuckerberg, both for disrupting competitiveness, as well as for privacy concerns within their applications and websites.