Facebook could face federal antitrust charges as early as November

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a Senate Joint Judicial and Commerce Committee hearing at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a Senate Joint Judicial and Commerce Committee hearing at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

State and federal investigators plan to slap Facebook with antitrust charges as early as November, four people familiar with the matter said le Washington Post. Such a lawsuit would mark the government’s latest crackdown on the biggest names in the tech industry, including Apple, Google and Amazon, for hold monopolies in their respective markets.

The Federal Trade Commission met privately to discuss the investigation on Thursday and plans to file a complaint in the coming weeks, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. However, they cautioned that since work is in progress, this schedule is still flattened and may be subject to change. Another investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James than 46 others state attorneys general joined last year also considered Facebook on the antitrust allegations, particularly the company’s strategy of buying out potential competitors just to gut their businesses.

Sources said state officials are “in the final stages of preparing their complaint,” according to the Post. A fifth person familiar with the case told the outlet that investigators expected to have “an initial list of participants” by Friday.

Officials appear to be bringing out the big guns this month, as this lawsuit would be the second major antitrust action against Big Tech in October. On Tuesday, the Justice Department and 11 states filed an antitrust complaint against Google, arguing that it hinders other search engines by including its own permanent, preloaded search app on all Android phones, among other alleged anti-competitive tactics.

Federal officials began investigating Facebook for alleged anti-competitive practices after the company settled a Federal Trade Commission investigation into 5 billion dollars on violations of user privacy in the infamous Scandale Cambridge Analytica. It’s good, while breaking records at the time, was violently denounced by critics who said it didn’t live up to the punishment Facebook deserved for mishandling the personal data of millions of users. The FTC then launched an ongoing investigation into Facebook’s purchase of its former rivals, Instagram and WhatsApp, and whether those acquisitions violated antitrust laws.

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Other state and federal regulators quickly followed suit. In A declaration Announcing the investigation in October 2019, James, from New York, said state officials had become “concerned that Facebook may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumer choice and increased the price of advertising.

Facebook vehemently denied the accusations and pointed out that federal regulators have every chance to step in and prevent the company from acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp. However, an investigation by an antitrust subcommittee of the House Judiciary packed up Earlier this month, Facebook and several other Big Tech companies repeatedly avoided FTC scrutiny. Namely, Facebook has acquired nearly 100 small businesses over the years, only one of which, its purchase of Instagram in 2012, has been tightly controlled by regulators.

Unrelated to these antitrust accusations, Facebook also faces increased government scrutiny over its moderation practices following widespread disinformation about the pandemic and the 2020 presidential election on its platform. The Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas this week for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as another big social media wig, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, to testify to the platforms’ moderation policies as well as their alleged anti-conservative bias and censorship.

[The Washington Post]

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