Social media giant Facebook has come in for heavy criticism as part of a US congressional hearing into the dominance of online tech platforms, being accused of ‘copy, acquire and kill’ tactics as part of its history in acquiring smaller businesses.
Internal Facebook emails disclosed during the hearing on Wednesday, July 29, demonstrate how the company believed the photo-sharing platform Instagram to previously be a “threat” before Facebook’s 2012 US$1 billion buyout.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg also admitted in one email exchange with chief financial officer, David Ebersman how his approach towards mergers and acquisitions was to “neutralise a competitor” and “integrate their products with ours.”
Moreover, Facebook faced allegations of threatening Instagram founder Kevin Systrom by going into “destroy mode” should the company have decided to block Facebook’s acquisition of it, by competing more aggressively with the Facebook Camera product.
“Facebook cloned a popular product and approached the company you identified as a competitive threat and told them that if they didn’t let you buy them up there would be consequences,” Representative Pramila Jayapal said.
“Your company uses data to spy on competitors and to copy, acquire and kill rivals,” Jayapal added. “You’ve used Facebook’s power to threaten smaller competitors and to ensure that you always get your way.”
For his part, Zuckerberg also conceded that at the time of the 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp for 22bn, the company was regarded as “both a competitor and complementary,” further provoking concerns that the company pursues a culture of aggressive acquisitions over smaller rivals.
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