As the FTC and States Sue Facebook, Revisit ‘The Facebook Dilemma’

Share:
For more context on the social media giant in the wake of the FTC's latest lawsuit, watch FRONTLINE's 2018 documentary 'The Facebook Dilemma.'

For more context on the social media giant in the wake of the FTC's latest lawsuit, watch FRONTLINE's 2018 documentary 'The Facebook Dilemma.'

December 9, 2020

On Wed., Dec. 9, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that it is suing the social networking giant Facebook, alleging multiple years of anticompetitive behavior that amounts to “illegal monopolization.”

In the 2018 documentary The Facebook Dilemma, FRONTLINE traced an earlier FTC investigation into Facebook’s practices. The new lawsuit goes further.

“The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things: require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp; prohibit Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers; and require Facebook to seek prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions,” the announcement read.

Forty-eight attorneys general participated in the investigation that preceded the FTC’s announcement. On the same day, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she and the coalition of attorneys general were suing Facebook over alleged anticompetitive conduct that prioritized profits over user privacy.

“We’re reviewing the complaints & will have more to say soon,” Facebook posted in response on Twitter. “Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day.”

In The Facebook Dilemma, FRONTLINE tracked Facebook’s meteoric growth and the consequences in the U.S. and across the world. The documentary also covered an earlier FTC investigation, begun in 2010, into whether Facebook had been deceiving its users about how their data was being shared. As the documentary recounts, Facebook settled with the FTC without admitting guilt and agreed, under a 2012 consent order, to fix problems the FTC had identified. Facebook representatives have said the company took the order seriously.

Last year, however, the FTC announced it was fining Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations and instituting new oversight programs and business restrictions on the company for privacy violations — indicating the company had continued to mislead users. 

Watch The Facebook Dilemma, in two parts, below:

As part of FRONTLINE’s ongoing Transparency Project, you can also explore an interactive version of the film and 29 extended interviews from the making of the documentary.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@ptaddonio

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

Derek Chauvin, three other ex-Minneapolis officers indicted by Justice Department on civil rights charges in killing of George Floyd
A federal grand jury has indicted four ex-Minneapolis police officers on charges of abusing their positions of authority to detain George Floyd, leading to his death last May.
May 7, 2021
FRONTLINE Earns Five Peabody Awards Nominations
Five FRONTLINE documentaries have been named 2021 George Foster Peabody Award finalists.
May 4, 2021
‘Escaping Eritrea’ Filmmaker Evan Williams Describes ‘Phenomenal Sacrifice’ of Eritreans Sneaking Footage Out of Country
'Escaping Eritrea' producer Evan Williams set out to learn what was driving so many Eritreans from their homeland. He found answers — as well as people trying to smuggle secret footage out of the country.
May 4, 2021
500,000 Refugees, ‘Slavery-like’ Compulsory Service, No National Elections, Border Conflicts & Secret Prisons: 5 Human Rights Crises in Eritrea
From compulsory conscription to the mass exodus of refugees, here is an introduction to five of Eritrea’s biggest human rights crises.
May 4, 2021