E.U., U.K. parties scrutinize Facebook for antitrust concerns


The colossus that we know as Facebook is now facing new dual challenges from both sides of the channel – Fortune reports today that European and British regulators are opening up new antitrust investigations into Google’s practices related to its classified ad marketplace business.


Under an unflattering picture of Mark Zuckerberg (who looks like an Easter Island statue that just got very bad news) Fortune writer David Meyer unpacks some of this tension and its origins.


The European Commission Antitrust Department and the UK Competition and Markets Authority, Meyer writes, are looking into how Facebook might be able to use competitors’ data against them in driving marketplace sales.


“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,” said Margrethe Vestager of the EC, according to Meyer’s report. “In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition.”


Interestingly, it seems regulators on that side of the Atlantic are focusing on slightly different aspects of Facebook’s operations than U.S. federal and state authorities who have also opened antitrust investigations of their own.


In the U.S. case, Facebook critics are mostly focused on its acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp as possibly unfair competition in social media and messaging.


“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Ian Conner reportedly said in a statement in 2020. “Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”


Facebook’s stock has slid about 1% in the face of the new announcements. In evaluating how the social media giant may fare in coming years, it’s important to look at Facebook’s track record as well as its underlying holdings, and to try to imagine what social media will look like in the future.