Europe, UK hit Facebook with formal antitrust investigations

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Regulators in Europe and the United Kingdom on Friday announced they have launched formal competition investigations into Facebook in a two-front offensive on the social media giant’s use of data to dominate markets.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority said it’s investigating whether Facebook is “abusing a dominant position in the social media or digital advertising markets through its collection and use of advertising data.”

Specifically, the agency said it’s probing whether Facebook has gained an unfair advantage in the digital classified advertisements business through Facebook Marketplace, and in its online dating business, Facebook Dating.

Separately, regulators in Brussels announced that the European Commission is also opening a formal antitrust investigation into the social media giant.

“We intend to thoroughly investigate Facebook’s use of data to assess whether its business practices are giving it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors,” said Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her first State of the Union speech of 2020 on 16 September in Brussels, Belgium.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers her first State of the Union speech of 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, where regulators will be probing Facebook.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

“We will be working closely with the European Commission as we each investigate these issues, as well as continuing our coordination with other agencies to tackle these global issues.”

The European Commission said it’s exploring whether Facebook ties its online classified ads business, Facebook Marketplace, to its social media network, which may violate EU competition rules.

“Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups,” said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice president of the European Commission. “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.”

“In today’s digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition.”

The European Commission noted that “a preliminary investigation” raised concerns about Facebook’s practices.

European antitrust regulators previously sent questionnaires to Facebook in 2019 about its marketplace service. And last year, European regulators sent another round of questionnaires, asking whether Facebook Marketplace benefits unfairly from the massive amounts of data the social media giant collects.

An activist of environmental NGO Avaaz wearing a mask depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg holds a banner reading "Regulate me" during an action marking the release of the Digital Services Act
An activist wears a mask depicting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a protest marking the release of the Digital Services Act.
AFP via Getty Images

In July of last year, Facebook sued EU antitrust regulators for seeking information it said was beyond what’s necessary for their investigations into the company’s data and marketplace.

Representatives for Facebook did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment.

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