DimWit Politics

Facebook Facing Antitrust Probes, FTC Action

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Facebook Facing Antitrust Probes, FTC Action

Facebook Facing Antitrust Probes, FTC Action
January 20
18:29 2020

“We have a little thing called free speech in this country. That means that nobody is allowed to censor the thoughts and words of Americans. We can say what we want. Anywhere. Anytime. About anything we damn well please.”
– Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, May 4, 2019

After years of increasing social media muzzling, particularly of conservative viewpoints, megacorporation Facebook is staring down the barrel of a federal antitrust investigation.

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In September 2019, according to New York State Attorney General Letitia James, 47 attorneys general from U.S. states and territories united as participants in an antitrust probe into Facebook led by her state. The question at hand is whether the leaders behind the popular social media platform violated any federal or state laws related to actions designed to squelch their competitors.

In a press release dated October 22, James revealed the extent of the official inquiry:

“After continued bipartisan conversations with attorneys general from around the country, today I am announcing that we have vastly expanded the list of states, districts, and territories investigating Facebook for potential antitrust violations. Our investigation now has the support of 47 attorneys general from around the nation, who are all concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising. As we continue our investigation, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions stifled competition and put users at risk.”

Included on the leadership team conducting the Facebook probe are the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.

Attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the territory of Guam are also part of the ongoing investigation.

Facebook stock shares fell 3.9% after the news broke.

Mark Zuckerberg’s publishing empire has managed to irritate just about every U.S. official, regardless of political affiliation. The company has been sued successfully for ignoring customer privacy and selling personal data to third-party marketers. Hiding behind corporate “Community Standards,” users have had their posts removed and accounts suspended or removed from the online information-sharing site.

In July 2019, Facebook’s corporate 2nd-quarter (Q2) earnings report stated that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had launched a separate antitrust investigation in June into possible corporate malfeasance.

Paradoxically, that earnings report also disclosed that the company’s earnings and revenues had exceeded industry analysts’ expectations, causing shares of FB (Facebook) to soar after the market closed that day.

Facebook had just settled with the FTC to resolve the 2018 Cambridge Analytica user data scandal that erupted after users that data thought to be private, provided by 87 million users, had been accessed improperly. The corporate giant paid the FTC $5 billion to make the problem go away.

But the problem didn’t go away. Instead, the Justice Department weighed in with a sweeping antitrust review that targeted not only the Book of Face but Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google). Attorney General William Barr is leading the inquiry to determine the legality of online practices that dominate internet search, social media, and retail services.

The DoJ is evaluating whether this small group of highly profitable media companies is stifling innovation and competition, harming consumers by creating an uneven playing field and politically biased monopolies.

Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, issued a statement dated July 23, 2019, that read:

“The goal of the Department’s review is to assess the competitive conditions in the online marketplace in an objective and fair-minded manner and to ensure Americans have access to free markets in which companies compete on the merits to provide services that users want.”

The DoJ’s Antitrust Department will “proceed appropriately to seek redress” if legal violations are identified.

In March 2019, Zuckerberg released his ironic “privacy-focused vision for social networking” plan that involves rebuilding more of the company’s services around the following issues:

  • Private interactions with no unwarranted data-sharing
  • Encryption to ensure data security
  • Reducing permanence of stored data on the social media platform
  • Safety within the constraints of an encrypted service
  • Interoperability between Facebook apps
  • Secure data storage

Zuckerberg’s public assurances may be too little too late. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has joined the nationwide antitrust probe, stated:

“Facebook has played a major role in shaping our global online economy as one of the largest social media platforms in the world. It is illegal for a business to use its market power to engage in anticompetitive conduct in an effort to achieve or maintain a monopoly. Our personal data is the biggest commodity in today’s online economy and, as the chief law enforcement officer of the state, it is my duty to ensure Michigan residents’ personal data doesn’t continue to be pillaged in a monopolist’s quest to control social media and advertising markets.”

The current federal and state antitrust investigations could last years before reaching any final rulings. In the meantime, Facebook continues to suppress conservative posts and ban its political opponents outright as it continues to rake in advertising revenues.

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  1. Phil in TX
    Phil in TX January 21, 19:12

    I have a dear personal friend that has been suspended many times by Facebook because his posts are very conservative. He will wait out the suspension and the first post he makes after being reinstated gets him suspended again. I have seen some of these posts and nothing in them is a reason to suspend him, in my personal opinion. What is Facebook afraid of?

    Phil in TX

    Reply to this comment
  2. John Abbott
    John Abbott January 21, 20:40

    I have been suspended for making comments that should offend no one who has any spine. As such, I have banned facebook – who needs them! The internet is available to all and it does not censor.

    Reply to this comment

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