FTC investigation of Facebook may not finish before 2021

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Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY


REUTERS/Erin Scott TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Don’t expect the FTC to wrap up an antitrust investigation of Facebook before 2020 is over. New York Times sources say it’s now “virtually impossible” for the FTC to finish an investigation of Facebook before 2021. There’s still progress, according to the tipsters, but much of what’s happening is still in the early stages. There will likely be several requests for documents, and depositions for company leaders could easily take a while.

The Washington Post claimed that officials were preparing to talk to company chief Mark Zuckerberg and operations chief Sheryl Sandberg.

Facebook and the FTC have declined to comment on the reports of progress into the investigations, although Facebook did say it was eager to share its “views on the competitive landscape” when Zuckerberg testifies to Congress on July 27th.

Many details of the case are under wraps, but they’re believed to focus on whether or not Facebook broke any antitrust laws through acquisitions. The company owns social media heavyweights Instagram and WhatsApp, and has been acquiring relevant companies like Giphy. Rivals have struggled to compete, although larger examples like Snapchat have continued to survive and sometimes thrive.

A 2021 finish could significantly alter the course of the investigation. The US might elect a new president in November, and that could easily lead to a replacement for FTC chairman Joseph Simons. If so, the antitrust case could take a new direction, with a different focus and expectations. This doesn’t mean Facebook would escape a penalty — if anything, it might face pressure from politicians eager to break up tech giants.

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