The Commission has launched a new antitrust investigation into Facebook, as almost 7 million firms advertise on the platform and this data could be used to “distort competition”
The Commission did an initial investigation into their concerns, but have decided to follow-up with a formal antitrust action. When it comes to Facebook, the social media platform dominates globally. With the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook has a significant portion of the world’s social interaction data.
A version of Instagram for under-13s was in progress, until activists and children’s rights groups pointed out the potential issues of allowing young children to access a social media platform that hyper-fixates on appearance. The plans are currently at a standstill.
Facebook has been in the GDPR hot-seat since over half a million users’ data was leaked, in 2019.
What exactly are the Commission concerned about?
The Commission is interested in the fact that Facebook may be distorting competition itself, by manipulating data. The social media giant is accused of protecting Facebook Marketplace from competitors, by looking at online ads placed to Facebook by external parties and guiding users away from them – by adapting Marketplace to give users what they clicked on external ads for.
The Facebook antitrust investigation technically has no legal deadline.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Facebook is used by almost 3 billion people on a monthly basis and almost 7 million firms advertise on Facebook in total. Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups.
“We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage in particular on the online classified ads sector, where people buy and sell goods every day, and where Facebook also competes with companies from which it collects data. In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition.”
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today (4 June) also launched its own investigation into Facebook’s use of data. Both bodies are expected to work together – but the UK itself remains unwilling to directly impose sanctions on the social media platform, as their Online Harms Regulation Bill continues to be delayed.