Consumer Groups Want To Break Up Facebook's Monopoly

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.

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.

Lucian Armasu
Lucian Armasu is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers software news and the issues surrounding privacy and security.
  • SkyBill40
    Hmm. Hard to disagree with the bulleted points made. Good luck all the same with getting anything done in accomplishing the end goal, however.
  • kenjitamura
    America is in kind of a pro-monopoly sentiment swing right now so nothing will be done. We'll have to wait a couple more decades for the full harmful effects of monopolies to appear and remind us all why we started to break them up in the first place.
  • bigpinkdragon286
    Facebook does not have a monopoly on a good or service that anyone needs. I think the money and energy of those organizations would be better spent in pursuing realistic goals.
  • mihen
    Seems dumb. They really need something to fall behind since they think this is a good idea.
  • derekullo
    Any information you give Facebook should be considered public.

    End of Story.

    It's on the Internet.

    It's not coming off the Internet.

    People stay in constant contact with thousands of friends and millions of people they don't know while "something with a farm" all for practically nothing.

    Even with the Cambridge Analytica scandal the data they gathered was still data users voluntarily uploaded to the Internet.

    The only real solution to the so called Facebook problem would be to transition to a monthly subscription, but that would never happen due to causing too much uproar with the users.

    With a monthly subscription Facebook wouldn't need to monetize data or at least monetize data all of its data to stay financially solvent.

    There is no free lunch.

    You either pay with cash or with your data.


    Go ahead!
    Make your choice!
    I'm a very busy company and I haven't got all day
    It won't cost much
    Just your data!

    (Couldn't help myself)
  • milkod2001
    How can you be that stupid? People don't give away information to Facebook to use it as it wants, FB should not be allowed to pass any personal info to any 3rd party or use it itself for anything but security reason when FB need to identify user. Any misuse of personal data must be strictly prohibited and fined.
  • kuhndj67
    The idea that "public" means that anyone else can do anything they want with your data if they can rationalize that it's somehow been made "public" needs to end. It IS coming to an end in Europe but as usual the US is behind the curve when it comes to anything that would protect consumers at the cost of big business. IMO breaking up Facebook would be a step in the right direction but I agree that in the US the current policy is WAY to anti-consumer for this to gain any traction.
  • bigpinkdragon286
    20990166 said:
    How can you be that stupid? People don't give away information to Facebook to use it as it wants, FB should not be allowed to pass any personal info to any 3rd party or use it itself for anything but security reason when FB need to identify user. Any misuse of personal data must be strictly prohibited and fined.
    Who do you think is paying for Facebook service to exist? It's not all paid for by advertising and the users sure aren't paying any money for the service.

    If the terms of service for a Facebook account inform users Facebook may sell their data, then FB selling that user's data is not a misuse. Opening an account is a voluntary action constituting an agreement between the user and Facebook. Frankly, if users are too self-absorbed to bother learning the terms they are agreeing to, how is that Facebook's fault?
  • milkod2001
    Understand where you are coming from. The issue is: FB needs to change its policy where there won't be any part of selling user data. In fact FB should start running campaign where it will specify exactly how user data will be used and if user agree with it. So far all was done by forcing new users into agreement or they were not allowed to create account. This is not issue with FB itself. Google will be next...
  • Colin_10
    I hadn't really thought about Facebook as a monopoly until now; probably because I haven't used FB in a few years, but after reading this article it made me think about it and they are definitely a monopoly. I can't even think of a competitor for them besides maybe Linkedin, and Linkedin has their own space to work in. There may be others out there, but if you can't even identify them due to lack of exposure/prominence in the marketplace then you have a monopoly on your hands.