Investigate Facebook over massive breach, critic urges FTC

The Freedom from Facebook group wants the FTC to seek maximum penalties over Facebook's breach of nearly 30 million users. That would be about $1.2 trillion.

Alfred Ng
Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
2 min read

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook's F8 conference.

James Martin / CNET

Facebook could be hit with an investigation after critics filed a legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 
And if the investigation goes against Facebook's favor, the fines could be up to $1.2 trillion. 

Watch this: Zuckerberg defends actions after New York Times investigation

The social network has stumbled into problem after problem this year, from its Cambridge Analytica scandal in March to hackers accessing about 30 million Facebook accounts in September. Its latest headache stems from a New York Times report on Wednesday showing Facebook's ties to Definers Public Affairs, an opposition research firm.
The story mentions Definers suggesting links between Freedom from Facebook and George Soros, a billionaire often targeted by anti-Semitic smears. Freedom from Facebook is a coalition against the social network's influence, made up of groups including Democracy for America, Citizens Against Monopoly, and Jewish Voters for Peace.

Now Freedom From Facebook is calling for an FTC investigation in a legal complaint the group filed on Wednesday. The coalition wants the FTC to investigate if Facebook violated its 2011 consent decree, a settlement the social network reached after breaking its promise to keep users' data private. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

The FTC is already investigating Facebook over violating its consent decree from Cambridge Analytica, and Freedom From Facebook wants more scrutiny over the breached accounts from September. The FTC declined to comment. 

European counterparts have already taken action against Facebook over the hacked accounts. The Irish Data Protection Commission said in a statement that it was investigating the breach, which could result in a $1.6 billion fine for Facebook. The group is asking for the FTC to seek maximum civil penalties for violating the consent decree. 

In 2011, Facebook agreed to face penalties up to $40,000 for each affected user if it violated its settlement with the FTC. In the September breach's scenario, with about 30 million affected people, a maximum penalty would be $1.2 trillion.  

The complaint comes the same day that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a press call with reporters for nearly an hour and 30 minutes, answering questions on the social network's new approach to content moderation. 
"When you're building something of this scale, often times putting the solution takes time," Zuckerberg said on the call.

The coalition also asks the FTC to decide if Facebook has gotten too large to handle, arguing that the social network is a monopoly. Freedom From Facebook protested the social network's influence during a Congress hearing in July

"Facebook, Inc. is a serial privacy violator that cannot be trusted. It has grown too big and its products have become too integrated and too complex to manage. Not only can we no longer trust Facebook, Inc. to manage its system safely, the corporation no longer has the capacity to do so effectively," the group wrote in its complaint. 

You can read the full complaint here: 

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