Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emerged from two days of congressional testimony largely unscathed in the near term, with his company’s stock prices actually rebounding from recent dips as an apparent response to his answers.
Some of the questions he was asked, however, signal the possible direction of legislative proposals to impose regulations on social media or Facebook specifically.
One area of interest to several lawmakers, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, involves competition. The South Carolina Republican spent much of his time on Monday questioning Zuckerberg on that issue.
“Let me put it this way,” Graham said. “If I buy a Ford and it doesn’t work well and I don’t like it, I can buy a Chevy. If I’m upset with Facebook, what’s the equivalent product that I can go sign up for?”
Zuckerberg ultimately asserted that “the average American uses eight different apps to communicate with their friends and stay in touch with people, ranging from text to email.”
While the senator went on to question whether the other apps are truly direct competitors with Facebook, some analysts took issue with a larger point in Zuckerberg’s response.
As Tech Crunch reported, Facebook has a corporate reputation for obtaining smaller companies within the social media sphere, which means the tech giant actually owns a significant number of the firms Zuckerberg cited this week as competitors.
Facebook’s footprint in the mobile app market includes three entries on the list of top 10 iOS apps in the United States. In fact, both Instagram and Messenger are more popular than Facebook’s primary app.
WhatsApp, another popular app within the top 20, is also owned by Facebook.
Since app downloads in general are dominated by games, Tech Crunch further narrowed the focus to just social networking apps. In that search, Facebook owned each of the top three apps.
During Monday’s testimony, Graham pressed Zuckerberg on this practice, asking if he thinks he is operating a monopoly.
“Ah, it certainly doesn’t feel like that to me!” the CEO responded with a laugh.
While the senator ultimately acknowledged Facebook’s purchase of Instagram “was a good business decision,” he said moves like that do not instill confidence that the company can regulate itself.
“My point is that all of us got to answer,” Graham said. “What do we tell our constituents, given what’s happened here, why we should let you self-regulate? What would you tell people in South Carolina, that given all the things we’ve just discovered here, it’s a good idea for us to rely on you to regulate your own business practices?”
Zuckerberg replied that he is not against government regulation, adding that “the real question as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives is what is the right regulation, not whether there should be regulation.”
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