Just after two multi-million dollar sanctions have been released to Facebook in the U.S. for its privacy management, a new front has been opened this week for the company: the disclosure of two other government investigations, in this case for monopolistic practices.
It hadn’t been eight hours since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a $5 billion fine for Facebook – the largest ever imposed on a technology company in that country – when the company itself reported that it was the subject of two other investigations. The difference is that, to date, most government and regulatory inquiries in the U.S. and around the world have focused on social networking malpractices in protecting the privacy of user data, especially in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The new round of research, however, has shifted the focus to possible monopolistic practices that, while they may not have the media impact of privacy – which any user can experience in their flesh – could have devastating consequences for the company. And if so far all the decisions of regulators have been restricted to economic sanctions and commitments by Facebook to modify its operations, if it were determined that the company violates antitrust laws, it could be forced to sell part of its business and dilute the company into smaller ones.
Facebook is by far the most widely used social network in the world and continues to grow in both revenue (mostly from advertising) and Internet users (especially in developing countries), standing already, according to the latest data released this Wednesday, at 2,410 million active monthly users (about a third of the world’s population).
The only other platform that comes close is, if you consider it a social network, Youtube (owned by Google), with 2,000 million users, although it could be argued that this is not a competing business, as it focuses very specifically on videos and is even complementary to Facebook. Twitter, which does compete with Facebook in the social networking sector, has “only” 330 million users on the planet, that is, less than a seventh of those of Zuckerberg’s company.