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Facebook’s Anticompetitive Lean in Strategies

Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen


Facebook is under fire on several fronts and with good reason. Regulators strive to make sense of and address a plethora of seemingly unrelated issues that arise from the operation of its platform. These range from antitrust, privacy violations, dissemination of harmful content and speech, deception and polarisation to political manipulation. This paper identifies Facebook's unrestricted and excessive data collection as a unifying theme that requires immediate antitrust action. Once a privacy-oriented social network, Facebook soon mutated into a surveillance machine designed to hoover people's personal data to identify and understand people's interests, preferences and emotions and turn that knowledge into profit through the sale of targeted ads. Since people's innate preference for privacy stood in the way of Facebook's growth, Facebook resorted to privacy intrusions and deception to access as much user data as possible, thereby gaining market power. Currently, its overwhelming dominant position in the social media market means that no matter how much data Facebook extracts from users, how transparent its information about its data processing practices is and how many privacy scandals ensue from its reckless handling of data, users have nowhere else to go. This paper provides a course of action to correct this unacceptable anticompetitive outcome. The imposition of unfair commercial terms on consumers, the distortion of the competitive process through privacy violations and misleading practices, the squeezing of news publishers' traffic and foreclosure of actual and potential competitors by Facebook, can be stopped. A combination of data and consumer protection measures alone cannot stop Facebook's actions, but antitrust enforcement can be used to curb Facebook's ability to reinforce its data-driven abuse of its market power.

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