A group of consumer advocacy groups, including Citizens Against Monopoly, Demand Progress, Jewish Voice for Peace, MoveOn, MPower Change, and SumOfUs launched a campaign called “Freedom From Facebook” and demanded that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) break up Facebook's monopoly.
The group believes that Facebook is a monopoly, which is an idea that the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already dismissed in a previous Congressional hearing.
The group presented several arguments for breaking up Facebook's monopoly, including the following points:
- Facebook has become so large that it now decides what news billions of people around the world get to see every day
- It buys competitors (WhatsApp, Instagram, etc.), thus killing consumer choice and ensuring that nothing threatens its monopoly
- Facebook tracks users everywhere they go on the internet, even without permission
- It uses private data against users and conducts psychological experiments in order to keep them addicted to its service
- The company gives third-parties access to significant amounts of information about users, thus allowing some of them to use it to manipulate elections
- Facebook spends millions of dollars on lobbying and lawyers to ensure that no significant privacy changes pass through Congress or the courts
Breaking Facebook Into Pieces
The Freedom From Facebook campaign is urging the five members of the FTC to break up Facebook’s monopoly so that internet users can have more choices. The group also claims it wants to save the American democracy from the fake news phenomena that has expanded on Facebook.
More specifically, the groups are asking the FTC to separate Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger from Facebook and into their own companies. They also want social media users to be able to communicate with each other across social networks. In other words, the groups are asking for the same type of standardization we saw with email decades ago.
Finally, the groups demanded that the FTC enforces stronger privacy rules. In theory, Facebook should have already been monitored by the FTC since the 2011 settlement, but that hasn't worked so well in practice. Furthermore, the FTC has allowed Facebook to be audited by other private parties, which seem to have found no problem whatsoever with Facebook’s privacy policies since 2011. Facebook itself recently admitted to having lax rules and weak data access policies that have allowed third-party developers to harvest user data without their permission. These weak policies also led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
The FTC has already started a private investigation into Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and new FTC Chairman Joseph Simons has shown some willingness to scrutinize tech giants over their potential abuses. However, it remains to be seen if anything will come out of this investigation.
Tomorrow, Zuckerberg will have his own share of public scrutiny from the European Parliament. Zuckerberg's testimony comes after Facebook tried to negotiate a private meeting instead.