A team of progressive advocacy groups, including MoveOn and Demand Progress, are asking the Federal Trade Commission to “make Facebook safe for democracy.” According to Axios, the campaign, called Freedom From Facebook, is set to launch a six-figure ad campaign on Monday that will run on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, among other platforms.
The other advocacy groups behind the campaign are Citizens Against Monopoly, Content Creators Coalition, Jewish Voice for Peace, Mpower Change, Open Markets Institute and SumOfUs. Together they are calling on the FTC to “break up Facebook’s monopoly” by forcing it to spin-off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into separate, competing companies. They also want the FTC to require interoperability so users can communicate across competing social networks and strengthen privacy regulations.
Freedom From Facebook’s site also includes an online petition and privacy guide that links to FB Purity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger, browser extensions that help users streamline their Facebook ad preferences and block online trackers, respectively.
The FTC recently gained a new chairman after President Donald Trump’s pick for the position Joseph Simons was sworn in early this month, along with four new commissioners also nominated by Trump. Simons is an antitrust lawyer who has represented large tech firms like Microsoft and Sony. The FTC is currently investigating whether or not Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica violated a previous legal agreement it had with the commission, but many people are wondering if it and other federal agencies are capable of regulating tech companies, especially after many lawmakers seemed confused about how social media works during Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional hearing last month.
In a statement issued in response to the campaign, a Facebook spokesperson said:
“Facebook is in a competitive environment where people use our apps at the same time they use free services offered by many others. The average person uses eight different apps to communicate and stay connected. People use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger because they find them valuable, and we’ve been able to better fight spam and abuse and build new features much faster by working under one roof. We support smart privacy regulation and efforts that make it easier for people to take their data to competing services. But rather than wait, we’ve simplified our privacy controls and introduced new ways for people to access and delete their data, or to take their data with them.”
Despite its data privacy and regulatory issues, Facebook is still doing well from a financial perspective. Its first-quarter earnings report showed strong user growth and revenue above Wall Street’s expectations.