Campaigners want US authorities to break-up Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into separate companies
Activists have opened a digital advertising campaign today to persuade the US Federal Trade Commission to break-up Facebook.
The coalition of ‘progressive' groups have formed Freedom From Facebook to campaign for the FTC to separate Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp from Facebook, and to oblige the company to make it easier for people on different social media networks to communicate with each other.
They also want the FTC to introduce more robust online privacy rules - a demand that comes in the same week that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is introduced across the European Union.
The group has also set-up its own petition and urged people to lobby the FTC. "Tell the Federal Trade Commission: It's time to break up Facebook's monopoly.
Freedom From Facebook@FacebookBreakup
Tell the @FTC that it is time to break up Facebook’s monopoly. Make Facebook safe for democracy and sign the petition: https://freedomfromfb.com
9:28 PM - May 20, 2018
Facebook has too much power over our lives and democracy. It’s time for us to take that power back.
Twitter Ads info and privacy
"The FTC should spin off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into competing networks [and] require interoperability, so we have the freedom to communicate across social networks, and impose strong privacy rules that empower and protect us," the campaign group argued. "It's time to make Facebook safe for democracy."
The groups behind Freedom from Facebook include the Open Markets Institute, MoveOn Civic Action, Demand Progress, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Mpower Change, the Muslim Grassroots Movement.
Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have amassed a scary amount of power
The campaigners' message continues: "Most of us use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. They're important ways for us to communicate and connect with each other.
"But Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg have amassed a scary amount of power. Facebook unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day. It buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly, killing innovation and choice.
"It tracks us almost everywhere we go on the web and, through our smartphones, even where we go in the real world. It uses this intimate data hoard to figure out how to addict us and our children to its services. And then Facebook serves up everything about us to its true customers - virtually anyone willing to pay for the ability to convince us to buy, do, or believe something.
"And it is spending millions on corporate lobbyists, academics, and think tanks to ensure no one gets in their way.
Companies that are already big and influential can sometimes use inappropriate means, anticompetitive means to get big or to stay big
"Enough. The five members of the Federal Trade Commission, which is the part of our government tasked with overseeing Facebook, can make Facebook safe for our democracy by breaking it up, giving us the freedom to communicate across networks, and protecting our privacy."
FTC chairman Joseph Simons, a corporate antitrust lawyer and President Trump's nominee for the post, has indicated a willingness to scrutinise Silicon Valley technology giants more closely.
During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, he said that he would prioritise consumer protection "where harm is greatest".
He added: "Oftentimes companies get big because they are successful with the consumer, they offer a good service at a low price. And that's a good thing, and we don't want to interfere with that…
"On the other hand, companies that are already big and influential can sometimes use inappropriate means, anticompetitive means to get big or to stay big. And if that's the case then we should be vigorously enforcing the antitrust laws."
He was non-committal, under questioning, on the subject of the market power amassed by the likes of Facebook and Google. Furthermore, none of the new FTC commissioners recently appointed have suggested breaking up technology or online giants.
However, an indication, perhaps, of the strength of the campaign so far is its follower count on Twitter, which this morning numbered eleven.