In a recent Open Secrets report on the 'data war' between GovChat and Meta, the writers wrote an insightful analysis of the central issues and the potential risk to the 'sanctity' of the personal information of South African citizens.
As we reported previously, the Competition Commission referred to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution the social media group, Meta Platforms Inc (previously known as Facebook Inc), and its subsidiaries, WhatsApp Inc and Facebook South Africa for abuse of dominance. In the past, Meta has demonstrated a global pattern of using its size and power to de-platform competitors and monopolise digital services. "The decision by the Competition Commission is a substantial step in efforts to hold Meta accountable and a big victory for GovChat, which relies on the WhatsApp platform for its business model," wrote Open Secrets.
The decision taken by the Competition Commission to refer the matter to the tribunal is a step in the right direction. The use of Meta's services, especially WhatsApp has ensured that South Africans can easily contact the right people in government through initiatives that were run through WhatsApp, including the Covid-19 and SASSA campaigns and initiatives. The unilateral decision by Meta to change WhatsApp terms and conditions and end these services is unfair and may be an abuse of market dominance.
Following the decision by Ireland to fine Facebook, it will be interesting to see if the Information Regulator, established in terms of POPIA, will take its own steps against WhatsApp to ensure transparency with the flow of personal information gathered from WhatsApp to other Meta entities, including Facebook.
It is refreshing to see collaboration from governmental and private entities to ensure fair business practices and competition is applied to the international giant social media corporations.
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