Can FTC Break up Facebook? “Freedom from Facebook” Says It’s Time


"Facebook has too much power over our lives and democracy. It’s time for us to take that power back," says a coalition of advocacy groups that wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to break Facebook into four different companies to end the social media monopoly.

While the social networking giant managed to buy or copy most of its competition without much criticism for years, the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal has fueled concerns that over 2 billion people should not be dependent on a single private company for their social media needs.

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"Facebook has a business model based on addicting and manipulating users"

A coalition of groups that includes Demand Progress, Citizens Against Monopoly, and the Open Markets Institute have launched the "Freedom from Facebook" campaign today demanding the FTC to break Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger into four independent businesses.

"Facebook has a radical amount of power, on top of a business model based on addicting and manipulating users," Sarah Miller, director of Citizens Against Monopoly, said in a statement.

"The FTC has the authority to re-establish choice, competition, and innovation, and free us from Facebook’s sprawling monopoly. They should use it.”

The demands to break up Facebook might remind some of Microsoft's landmark antitrust fight from the turn of the century - something that Bill Gates continues to warn the Silicon Valley giants against. However, just like Microsoft, the FTC may not be able to actually break up Facebook but it could definitely lead to some restrictions and policy changes.

Freedom from Facebook's petition makes three core demands:

  1. The FTC should spin off Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger into competing networks,
  2. require interoperability, so we have the freedom to communicate across social networks,
  3. and impose strong privacy rules that empower and protect us.

"The company spends millions on lobbying Washington; unilaterally decides news for billions of people"

The campaign said that all the four services - Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger - have become important for users to connect and communicate with each other. However, with Facebook buying Instagram in 2012 and then WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion in 2015, Facebook - and in turn, Mark Zuckerberg - have "amassed a scary amount of power."

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The organizers wrote that the company "unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day."

It buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly, killing innovation and choice. It tracks us almost everywhere we go on the web and, through our smartphones, even where we go in the real world. It uses this intimate data hoard to figure out how to addict us and our children to its services. And then Facebook serves up everything about us to its true customers -- virtually anyone willing to pay for the ability to convince us to buy, do, or believe something.

And it is spending millions on corporate lobbyists, academics, and think tanks to ensure no one gets in their way.

The campaign also reportedly plans a six-figure digital ad campaign targeted at Facebook and Instagram (along with Twitter) users with messages that will read:

"Facebook keeps violating your privacy. Break it up”

"Mark Zuckerberg has a scary amount of power. We need to take it back.”

In response, Facebook continues to suggest that it's not such a big monopolistic company that people make it to be and that it works in a competitive environment. According to the company, an "average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected," thus proving that Facebook isn't a monopoly...

While it is highly unlikely that the FTC and its 5 commissioners will be able to break up Facebook especially with the company having increased its lobbying efforts in Washington, the campaign does make good points on improving privacy policies. It's also asking users to follow these guidelines to limit the company's privacy invasions while using its network of apps.

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Do you think if Facebook should be divided into four independent companies?