The Federal Trade Commission, now headed up by big-tech critic Lina Khan, is looking into whether Facebook engaged in deceptive marketing practices by knowingly causing harm to its customers.
The company has been under mounting pressure after an ex-employee, Frances Haugen, leaked an enormous number of confidential documents to various news outlets. Among the revelations from those files was that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knew the company’s algorithms were rewarding divisive behavior — and in some cases doing harm to its consumers — and declined to change course.
The FTC reached a $5 billion settlement with Facebook in 2019 over user-data concerns, which was widely seen as a slap on the wrist.
The agency may now be probing whether Facebook violated that agreement by failing to inform users about the risks of its product.
Several senators, including Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Marsha Blackburn, have called on the agency to investigate Facebook further, with Blumenthal telling the Journal, “I think the FTC should be really angry if Facebook concealed this material from them as it did from us in the Congress and the public.”
Facebook has maintained that the leaked papers have been misrepresented in the press, and a deceptive-marketing case may be very difficult to prove in court. Still, the FTC’s moves are an indicator that federal and state regulatory agencies are circling the company.
More on the Facebook papers
- Planet Facebook
- Zuckerberg Pivots to Creators and Renames Facebook Meta
- What Is Being Leaked in the Facebook Papers?