The European Commission and UK Regulators have formally opened antitrust investigations into Facebook.
It’s about time.
The investigations, while not focused on the significant democratic harms enabled by the platform, are beginning to scratch the surface of Facebook’s unethical data harvesting business model, back in the spotlight again recently when a data breach of over 500 million users was made public.
The platform has nearly 3 billion monthly active users, all being discreetly surveilled in the background of nearly every single one of Facebook’s features.
Both investigations are primarily concerned with the vast troves of user data that Facebook holds, and whether that gives them an undue advantage in the online advertising market (it seems fairly obvious that it may). The European Commission is also concerned with whether Facebook benefits from holding data on rival advertisers (again, it probably does).
This gets to the core of why this platform is so powerful, and in terms of democratic health and societal cohesion, so destructive.
While investigating Facebook’s unfair monopolisation of digital advertising is worthwhile, it gives credence to what activists like us have been saying for years: data-driven targeted advertising, especially when it comes to political ads, is short-sighted, dangerous and unethical. Targeted controversy generates clicks, and clicks generate revenue. Facebook has a clear incentive to undermine truth and democracy.
Fair Vote UK is working to build a stronger coalition around online safety. We hope to use investigations like these as stepping stones to tackling the core problem – an immoral and unsustainable business model that is desperately calling for regulation.
Some experts have called for nationalising Facebook, arguing that “social media platforms need to be treated like public roads, not private malls.” It doesn’t have to come to that, but Facebook’s extremely toxic business model can not go on much longer without a repeat of January 6th (or something even worse). Let’s tackle this obvious problem before it truly gets out of hand.
We can’t do it without you. Let’s end the wild west era of technology, and usher in a more stable, regulated and ethical internet. Support us.