Progressive groups want the US government to break up Facebook

The ad campaign.
The ad campaign.
Image: Screenshot/Freedom From Facebook
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A coalition of left-leaning groups have launched an ad campaign to petition the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook, saying that it has become a monopoly.

The campaign, dubbed “Freedom from Facebook,” calls for the FTC to spin off WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger into separate businesses, to develop “interoperability standards,” which let users communicate between different social networks, and to give users more control over their data.

The strongly worded petition says Facebook “unilaterally decides the news,” “buys up or bankrupts potential competitors,” “tracks us almost everywhere we go,” and works to “figure out how to addict us” to its services.

The coalition includes the The Open Markets Institute, a small nonprofit that made waves after its founders were ousted from the New America Foundation. It also includes George Soros-funded MoveOn Civic Action, SumofUs, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others.

Axios, which first reported the news, says it’s a “six-figure” campaign. According to a release, the ads are designed to reach users through social media, including Facebook, as well as search and banner ads on websites. The ads feature the face or eyes of Mark Zuckerberg alongside text like, “Mark Zuckerberg has a scary amount of power. We need to take it back” or “Facebook is a corporate monopoly. Its business model is surveillance and manipulation.”

A Facebook spokesperson told Quartz that the platform is in a “competitive environment where people use our apps at the same time they use free services offered by many others,” and that the average person uses eight different apps to communicate.” (Facebook itself owns four apps that reach five billion people monthly). They said the company supports “smart privacy regulation and efforts that make it easier for people to take their data to competing services.” Facebook, however, is not waiting for such regulation and is simplifying its own controls, the spokesperson said.

The campaign comes as the FTC is investigating Facebook to find out whether the company has violated a 2011 consent decree signed by the two organizations. The probe is among the most significant threats to Facebook’s business, since fines from the FTC could total $40,000 for every violation. Axios notes that the regulator is entering a new era under the leadership of Joseph Simons, who has suggested (paywall) that he would step up scrutiny of big tech companies.