Authorities in the United States have announced fresh new antitrust investigations into Facebook. The investigation will be done by a bipartisan group of more than 30 state attorneys general. The Attorney-general from New York, Letitia James, made the announcement on Friday.
This antitrust investigation is similar to one that Microsoft faced more than 20 years ago. Its purpose is to prevent a private company from having too much influence over (or monopolizing) an industry.
In recent months, several presidential candidates have raised the issue of big-tech companies monopolizing the industry and stifling competition. This is where antitrust regulations come into play. These businesses include the likes of Facebook and Google, which currently hold too much power over the tech industry. Both companies have been criticized for their behavior, that is clearly counter to healthy competition in the market. At this point, both companies have the resources and the manpower to either acquire rival apps or simply copy their features.
New York attorney general, Letitia James, made the following statement regarding the antitrust investigation into Facebook:
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”
Investigation on Google
Next in line for an antitrust investigation is Google. The announcement will most likely be made on Monday. A bipartisan group of State attorneys general will be investigating Google’s influence on digital marketing and advertising.
Why this investigation?
Facebook has been under a lot of scrutiny over the past few years over its handling of user data. In 2018, company CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress, admitting some of the shortcomings of the company and defending it against other accusations. But in light of this fresh antitrust investigation, it is important to understand that this is a much needed thing. We live in a time that is dangerously lacking in user privacy. Companies like Facebook and Google give us free services on their various platforms, and in return we inadvertently give them our private data. The companies then mine our preferences out of these data and use it to generate targeted ads. While this may be acceptable to a certain degree, when a company gets as big as Facebook of Google, it becomes a serious threat to our private lives.
If proven guilty, this could result in extreme measures, such as these companies actually being broken down.
Facebook’s Official Response
Facebook has responded to this announcement in an agreeable manner. The vice-president of state and local policy at Facebook, Will Castleberry, made the following statement:
“We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe. We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”
Facebook has repeatedly stated that it has just one goal, which is connecting everyone in the world. But many have criticized it for its mishandling of user data. Furthermore, the company is clearly establishing a monopoly over the tech space, even though it claims otherwise.