European Parliament members on Tuesday signaled they consider Facebook a monopoly and are exploring the idea of breaking it up, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisting the world's largest social media network still exists in "a very competitive space." German liberal Manfred Weber said "it’s time to discuss breaking up Facebook’s monopoly because it’s [sic] already too much power in only one hand," having asked Mr. Zuckerberg whether he can convince him not to do so. The 34-year-old hasn't responded to that question, with the format of the meeting seeing him accept back-to-back inquiries for over an hour before he started addressing them by "broader themes" — as he himself put it — for some 20 minutes.
Belgian liberal Guy Verhofstadt asked whether Facebook would be willing to completely open its books and help European investigators determine if its business constitutes a monopoly, having framed his inquiry as a yes-or-no question which Mr. Zuckerberg didn't address either. While speaking on the subject of competition, the multi-billionaire said Facebook needs to evolve on a daily basis so as to "stay relevant" and continue serving users in an optimal manner. "From where I sit, it feels like there are new competitors coming up every day," he said, repeating some app usage claims made during his April hearings with congressional committees in the United States and placing a particular focus on the notion that the average consumer relies on eight communication tools every day. While no sources were quoted as a basis for that claim, most digital insight companies point to at least several of the eight most popular communications apps on the planet being owned by Facebook itself, with Instagram and WhatsApp being the two most high-profile members of its portfolio.
Mr. Zuckerberg also said Facebook isn't a marketing monopoly, stating that advertisers have "a lot of choice in where they choose to advertise," and noting how its business model allows small and medium-sized companies to grow in a significant manner. Out of 70 million firms using Facebook-made tools to reach more customers, some 18 million are located in Europe, and about half of them ended up hiring more people due to the growth they managed to achieve on the platform, Mr. Zuckerberg said. The Q&A session revealed little new information about the company's privacy practices and the Cambridge Analytica debacle, with Facebook's chief being criticized by EU lawmakers over his unwillingness to address more questions directly.