As Meta's stock price plummeted in one of the biggest collapses in U.S. history Thursday, tech policy wonks noticed something peculiar: The company's market value is creeping mighty close to falling below the threshold set by Congress in its antitrust bill specifically targeting Meta.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar's American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which is headed to the Senate floor, prohibits large tech platforms from boosting their own products and services on the platforms they own. Just how large is large? The bill says covered platforms have to have a market cap of $550 billion or higher "over any 180-day period during the 2-year period" prior to any alleged violations.
A day ago, it was more or less unthinkable that Meta would ever cross into uncovered territory. But that was before the company reported a bruising quarter, during which Facebook's user base declined for the first time in its history. Meta's stock price dropped more than 26%, shaving hundreds of billions of dollars off of its market cap in a single day.
The schadenfreude from Big Tech critics was swift — but it was also quickly followed by some keen-eyed observation that Facebook might soon bomb its way out of antitrust enforcement. To be clear, that scenario is still extremely unlikely. Even if Meta's stock price keeps falling, that wouldn't shield it from the law, if it's enacted. The bill looks at platforms' average value over time, not on any single day. And Meta's value could — and very likely will — recover at least somewhat.
Still, the staggering one-day drop raises questions about Congress's approach. In attempting to narrowly target specific companies by their value — not just their behavior — the bill risks missing its intended target if the market, which can be unpredictable, fluctuates for any substantial period of time.
Which would certainly weaken the company somewhat, but wouldn't necessarily solve the antitrust problem. Sure, Meta lost a few hundred billion dollars in value overnight — but with more users than any other social media company in the world, it isn't any less of a competitive threat than it was yesterday.