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Democrat David Cicilline Calls for FTC Antitrust Probe into Facebook

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
SEAN MORAN

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, on Tuesday, called for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether Facebook violated American antitrust laws.

“As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, I am calling for an investigation into whether Facebook’s conduct has violated antitrust laws,” Rep. Cicilline wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Cicilline, a vocal tech critic in the House, wrote that the FTC faces a “massive credibility crisis” and urged the federal agency to take a more aggressive stance against Silicon Valley.

“How the commission chooses to respond to Facebook’s repeated abuses will determine whether it is willing or able to promote competition and protect consumers,” Cicilline added.

The letter to the FTC arises as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) proposed to break up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Cicilline accused Facebook of engaging in a “broader pattern of misconduct,” which includes exposing 87 million Facebook users’ private data, paying teenagers to spy on their behavior.

In March, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company plans to integrate messaging on its Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook platforms.

Not only did the commission fail to enforce its order, but by failing to block Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, it enabled Facebook to extend its dominance,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.

Rep. Cicilline noted other ways the social media giant engaged in anticompetitive practices. In one instance, Facebook reportedly spied on its rivals, obtaining valuable information on how people used its competitors’ products.

In 2013, Zuckerberg personally approved the company’s decision to block Vine, a competitor to Facebook, from an essential Facebook feature to better its online video service.

“Watchdogs and consumers alike report that the quality of Facebook’s products has declined,” the House Judiciary Democrat said. “It has killed innovation and eliminated competitive threats. And the price for advertising on the platform has continued to rise.”

Cicilline wrote, “American antitrust agencies have not pursued a significant monopoly case in more than two decades, even as corporate concentration and monopoly power have reached historic levels.”

“It’s clear that serious enforcement is long overdue,” Cicilline concluded.

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