Demand Progress Pushes for Breakup of Facebook

Demand Progress is demanding that the Federal Trade Commission break up Facebook.

It has launched a petition drive to get its supporters and the wider public behind the effort, which already has a high-profile backer in Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has made that part of her campaign platform, outlining a plan to break up the biggest of Big Tech.

Related: Facebook Hammered from Multiple Sides in D.C.

Facebook has been under investigation for a year by the Federal Trade Commission over how it protects, or doesn't, and how it informs, or doesn't, its users about how their personal information is being used or shared.

That follows the revelation that Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook user data without their knowledge to build profiles it then sold to political campaigns, including the Trump campaign.

Demand Progress cites Facebook plans to integrate is acquired properties as another reason to start disaggregating before that happens.

"[Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg is already planning to tighten his grip on social media," they says. "He wants to further integrate Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. The result will make it harder for people to escape Facebook, jeopardize our data and privacy, and further undermine competition."

Facebook is under a 2012 consent decree from Facebook resolving FTC charges that "Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."

Critics cite Cambridge and other issues to argue Facebook has not kept its end of the bargain--and that the FTC has not been a sufficiently tough cop on that beat--and there are reports the FTC is considering a $1 billion fine, but Demand Progress doesn't think that is enough of a hit to change the company's practices.

"One of the remedies the FTC is considering is a fine of $1 billion or more," they said. "hat may sound like a lot. But it's not. It's barely a few days' revenue for the company. And it won't produce lasting change," said Demand Progress.

"We can't trust Facebook to regulate itself. There's too much at stake, and they've proven themselves to be bad faith actors over and over again." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.