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Facebook confirms new FTC antitrust investigation after posting strong earnings

Facebook confirms new FTC antitrust investigation after posting strong earnings


Facebook’s business is doing just fine, but it’s under an all-new FTC investigation

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Illustration by James Bareham / The Verge

Facebook’s business continues to grow, largely unimpeded by the various privacy settlements, corporate scandals, and regulatory concerns over its handling of user data and other reckless practices. Yet the company announced today, as part of its second quarter earnings announcement, that the Federal Trade Commission is now officially investigating Facebook for potential violations of US antitrust law.

“The online technology industry and our company have received increased regulatory scrutiny in the past quarter. In June 2019, we were informed by the FTC that it had opened an antitrust investigation of our company,” reads the company’s earnings release. “In addition, in July 2019, the Department of Justice announced that it will begin an antitrust review of market-leading online platforms.”

Facebook confirms its the first tech giant the FTC is targeting in sweeping antitrust probes

Earlier today, Facebook and the FTC announced the terms of a settlement of an entirely separate investigation over the company’s privacy practices. That settlement is resulting in a $5 billion fine, the largest ever for a tech company, in addition to a number of conditions that will require Facebook to submit new products and services for a third-party privacy review and other oversights.

And last month, the FTC was granted authority to oversee antitrust probes into both Facebook and Amazon, while the US Department of Justice is handling Google. Now, it appears the FTC is actively working on bringing a case against the social network, as Facebook’s disclosure here is the first official confirmation of a formal antitrust investigation kicking off. The company says it was informed of the investigation last month, so we may hear more about antitrust cases against Amazon and Google when those two companies report earnings later this month.

Despite the torrent of bad headlines, Facebook’s business is doing just fine. The company announced that revenue soared 28 percent to $16.9 billion year over year, and the number of users logging into Facebook every day and every month has grown by 8 percent, to 1.59 billion and 2.41 billion people, respectively. In other words, Facebook continues to be the most popular internet service on the planet, and in three months, it made more than three times the amount that the FTC fined it for its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and other privacy issues.