Even if the federal government successfully breaks up Big Tech upon determining social media giants are violating antitrust law, the tech companies will still have an enormous amount of influence over public policy, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom warns.
Speaking at the New York Times Dealbook conference on Wednesday, Systrom who sold Instagram to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, argued Facebook would wield an unprecedented amount of power even without its Instagram and WhatsApp subsidiaries.
“If you think that the problem is that someone has too much power over policy decisions, don’t think that if you were to peel off WhatsApp and Instagram, that all of a sudden solves that problem,” he said. “You still have two and a half billion people on Facebook.”
Systrom, who launched Instagram in 2010 with co-founder Mike Krieger, also admitted he has no regrets about selling his company to Facebook when it was still in its infancy.
“When someone comes to you and offers you $1billion for 11 people, what do you say?” he quipped. “If big companies weren’t allowed to buy little companies, you would have a lot of innovation that just won’t take off.”
Systrom left Instagram in 2018, reportedly due to “growing tensions with Mark Zuckerberg.”
U.S. Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim, who was also in attendance at The New York Times event explained Facebook is under scrutiny by his team in addition to other companies.
Systrom’s argument against breaking up Big Tech comes after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ardently defended his company ownership of Instagram last Wednesday.
Facebook is currently under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and 47 attorneys general for alleged antitrust practices amid a growing concern the company has too much control over online free speech.
“A lot of the antitrust questions that are out there that are going to be about our acquisition of Instagram, right?” Zuckerberg said. “There’s going to be a lot of scrutiny of that acquisition in particular.”
Instagram, however, was in its early stages of development when it was purchased by Facebook, Zuckerberg argued, attributing Instagram’s success to his company’s leadership.
“In some ways we considered Instagram to be a competitor, but we have always thought that the better way to think about Instagram was that it was complementary to Facebook and what we’re doing,” he said.
“Instagram wouldn’t be what it is today without co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger,” he continued. “But it also wouldn’t be what it is without everything that we put into it, whether that’s the infrastructure or our advertising model, our expanded safety services and a lot more.”
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