European Commission Plans To Hit Facebook With Official Antitrust Probe

Facebook European Union

The European Commission (EC) is launching an official investigation into allegations that Facebook engaged in anti-competitive behaviors, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday (May 26). 

The EC is also doing a deep dive to get a sense of Facebook’s classified advertising tactics and will determine if it undermines competitors. Officials have so far hit the social media giant and its rivals with several rounds of questions regarding Facebook’s classified advertising division.

At issue is whether the social network manipulated its classified ad business by pitching its Marketplace services for free to its 2 billion users. Facebook’s fee-free Marketplace was rolled out in 2016 and gives users the ability to buy, sell and trade goods.

The EC and Facebook have had a strained relationship as officials gathered evidence, sources told FT. The tension led to Facebook taking Brussels to court over the broad questions and the invasion of employees’ privacy.

The European Union (EU) also has launched antitrust probes into Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google. The formal investigation into Facebook is anticipated to come within a few days following discussions about the final scope of the investigations, FT reported, citing sources.

A Facebook antitrust investigation is also being launched by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The agency is looking into allegations that the social network tapped user data as a way to undermine online advertising competitors. The probe also includes a look into Facebook’s Marketplace policies.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states initiated an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook in December 2020. The FTC was looking to get an injunction in federal court that could force the social media giant to unload assets like Instagram and WhatsApp. The injunction also could prevent the Silicon Valley tech behemoth from imposing restrictions on software developers.