WhatsApp Cofounder Responds to Sen. Warren’s Calls to Break up Facebook

Read an edited transcript below, or listen to the full interview on the First Contact podcast.

No one’s pointing a gun to your head and saying, you must use WhatsApp or Facebook or whatever. I mean, there are choices.

Laurie Segall: There’s this narrative right now, especially playing out politically where all these tech companies are under fire. Do you think that tech companies have too much power and influence?

Brian Acton: That’s a loaded question, right? I think that they have their measure of power and influence as does any other form of media. To have too much implies a judgment statement. I don’t, I don’t know if I’m really equipped to judge that.

Laurie Segall: Well I think there’s a larger question of like, are these companies monopolies? And I guess WhatsApp is at the center of that because WhatsApp sold to Facebook and you have someone like Senator Warren saying WhatsApp should be broken up from Facebook, that Facebook has too much power. Do you think WhatsApp should be taken away from Facebook? Is that the solution?

Brian Acton: She’s narrowing it to sort of like, the place of single, you know, communications, and again, it goes back to sort of what is the equation here? I think one of them is, is there alternatives? And the answer is absolutely yes. There’s many alternatives. So how can you claim that a single company is a quote unquote monopoly when there’s five different alternatives? I could rattle off a name as alternatives to Facebook. It’s only a de facto monopoly because people choose to use Facebook or use WhatsApp or use whatever. It’s not a monopoly through any other form. They don’t have any strong hold over the American people, American people. You can switch apps any day of the week. You can go use Signal, you can use, you know, WeChat if you wanna, I mean really give away your privacy, but like, there’s other apps you can use. There’s, there’s nothing that’s, no one’s pointing a gun to your head and saying, you must use WhatsApp or Facebook or whatever. I mean, there are choices.

Laurie Segall: Right. So that would be your message to a lot of the politicians who are talking about these companies needing to be broken up, that there’s still alternatives?

Brian Acton: I would really wanna understand what the basis of breaking them up was. I mean, the one that we have, historically, is AT&T, right? And so AT&T, there was no choice. That was the whole reason they had to break up AT&T. You couldn’t get an alternate long-distance carrier. Like, there were all these problems with AT&T being the monopoly. Because you couldn’t get another phone company to come to your house and give you signal. Right? That’s not the case on the internet. …You have virtually infinite choice. So, to break up, you’re essentially penalizing one company and breaking them up, and allowing all the other companies that you’re actually not even legally authorized to break up to continue on. So in some ways, it’s anti-competitive for American companies to try to break them up, right? You’re just allowing some other foreign company to actually take over some of the market share, because you’re artificially imposing some sort of break-up philosophy. And you don’t even have a good mechanism to sort of break it up under what terms. There are certainly things that I think that Facebook has been accused of doing on an unfair advantage basis. But that’d be another criteria to evaluate them. Or Google, for that matter. I mean, Google, also, is like, are they posing unfair advantage in some- some areas? That would be maybe a basis more so than like, oh, these shouldn’t be allowed to talk to each other.