Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is no longer just calling for the company's break up but is now actively pursuing a course of action to make that a reality, according to widespread reports surrounding the investigation.
The former Facebook executive has previously publicly argued that the company needs to be split and that its CEO should face personal consequences for the direction the company has taken. As part of the FTC antitrust investigation into Facebook's practices, Mr. Hughes is said to be not only providing whatever information he might have about Facebook's motivations and modus operandum but also with individual leads for the agency to follow up on.
Instagram and WhatsApp are at the heart of it all
Mr. Hughes isn't taking on the social media giant along either. Assisting in pushing for Facebook to be split are Scott Hemphill and Tim Wu — hailing from NYU and Columbia University — who argue that Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram should have thrown up red flags about the company much earlier on.
The buyouts each helped to cement Facebook's current position as the world leader in social networking across multiple platforms, giving the company more IPs and directions from which to approach that market, while simultaneously eliminating competition.
Facebook's decision to allow both WhatsApp and Instagram to continue operating as standalone brands could also play a role in the determination that's ultimately made in the ongoing investigation.
That's following reports back in January indicating that the company was planning moves that would bring the presently separated apps much closer together. In fact, the reports suggested that it would effectively bring its messaging apps together, broadening the total number of "Facebook" users to over 4 billion and giving rise to concerns that Facebook's privacy concerns would spread.
If the company does bring the services together in everything but branding that would strengthen the case that it is operating under anti-competitive practices and policies. Moreover, it may strengthen the case that reports were leaked out about the possibility, to begin with, since it would seem to highlight the alleged monopolistic tendencies of Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
This isn't over yet for Facebook
At least one expert, a senior adviser at Public Knowledge named Gene Kimmelman, has reportedly weighed with statements suggesting that the case might not be straightforward. The agency and those arguing for a break-up of the company would need to prove that not only is Facebook attempting to hold back the competition but that real harm has been caused economically as a result of the tech giant's actions.
The FTC also isn't commenting on the investigation since that's still ongoing and it could still be some time before any allegations are officially leveled at Facebook but legislators and investors alike have been increasingly calling for action to be taken over the past several months. Given that the company was hit with a $5 billion fine just a couple of days ago following a completely unrelated investigation into how it protects user privacy, the situation does not look good for the social media behemoth.