Facebook should be broken up, FTC and states allege in twin lawsuits


Facebook has been facing more scrutiny from US lawmakers and regulators.

Graphic by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

Facebook’s purchases of photo-service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp have helped fuel the social media giant’s massive growth. They’ve also prompted concerns from federal and state authorities about Facebook’s dominance in social networking.

The uneasiness with Facebook’s power bubbled over on Wednesday as the Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general filed separate lawsuits in federal court accusing Facebook of illegally stifling its competition by snapping up its rivals.

The lawsuits are the latest sign that lawmakers and regulators are ratcheting up their scrutiny of the power that tech giants wield. In addition to Wednesday’s actions, the US Department of Justice’s antitrust division has been talking to developers about their interactions with Oculus, the virtual reality headset maker Facebook owns, Bloomberg reported last week. In October, the Justice Department filed a landmark lawsuit against Google for allegedly holding monopolies in both search and search advertising. 

The antitrust scrutiny isn’t limited to the US. European antitrust regulators have also cracked down on tech companies. In November, the European Commission filed antitrust charges against Amazon over the e-commerce giant’s use of data gathered from sellers on its platform. Regulators are also looking into Facebook’s access to user data and whether the company used that information to stifle competition. Google has been hit with a series of fines, including one for $1.7 billion last year over “abusive” online advertising practices. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Wednesday the company plans to fight the cases, which could take years to play out.

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