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WhatsApp: Tech Watchdogs Collide with Tech Giants

Published 03 May 2021
Reference 6675
Region Global
Summary

The case provides an alternative view of the antitrust dilemma facing Lina Khan, newly appointed commissioner of the US Federal Trade Commission. Her nomination to the FTC by President Biden sent a clear signal to tech giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google that their enormous power would be reined in by his administration. Khan takes up an antitrust complaint filed against Facebook by her predecessor that its acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014 violated antitrust regulations. This offers an opportunity to review current thinking about the acquisition of start-ups by large technology platforms and discuss the controversy over the privacy practices of social networking platforms. Beyond the legal dimensions, the case examines the growing competitive forces that could pose a threat to WhatsApp and its longstanding domination of the instant messaging market.

Teaching objectives

In the context of a shift in public opinion with regard to platforms like Amazon, Google and Facebook, the aim is to discuss the role of Facebook and WhatsApp as ‘gatekeepers’ in communications, social networking and entertainment, and to understand the dilemmas facing antitrust regulators like Lina Khan in limiting their power. Facebook has made an estimated 82 acquisitions since its founding in 2004. Its acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014 - the subject of this case – was called into question by the US Federal Trade Commission. The case enables students to discuss the merits of the FTC complaint and other lawsuits launched against tech giants in Europe and India.

Keywords
  • Facebook
  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Signal
  • Lina Khan
  • Privacy violations
  • Pavel Durov
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Telegram
  • Antitrust
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Amazon
  • Timothy Wu
  • Brian Acton
  • Q22021