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U.S. House antitrust chairman calls unwinding Facebook's Instagram buy 'the right answer'

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: Facebook logos
FILE PHOTO: Facebook logos

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee, said on Wednesday he would be "comfortable with unwinding" Facebook Inc's acquisition of Instagram.

The antitrust subcommittee on Tuesday released a report on Big Tech's abuses of market power but stopped short of naming specific companies or acquisitions that must be broken up.

Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, told Reuters in an interview that Facebook should not have been allowed to buy Instagram, a deal that the Federal Trade Commission approved in 2012.

"I would be comfortable with unwinding that. I think that's the right answer," he said.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has said previously that Instagram was insignificant at the time it was purchased and that Facebook built it into the success it has become.

Any effort to unwind the deal would entail the government filing a lawsuit and asking a judge to order the divestiture.

The congressional report released on Tuesday said that Instagram was small at the time it was purchased, but that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saw its potential and noted it was "building networks that are competitive with our own" and "could be very disruptive to us."

According to the House panel's report on Tuesday, the committee received an email from an unnamed former Instagram employee on Sunday that disputed Facebook's contention that the two apps could not easily be separated.

"They can just roll back the changes they've been making over the past year and you'd have two different apps again," the person wrote. "It's turning something on and off."

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis)