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'Freedom from Facebook' urges FTC to break up social network's 'monopoly'

Advocacy groups want the world's largest social network to spin off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

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Privacy and anti-monopoly groups want to break up Facebook.

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A coalition of advocacy groups says Facebook has too much power, and that the Federal Trade Commission needs to break up the company's "monopoly."

The privacy and anti-monopoly groups are calling on the FTC to spin off Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger into competing networks, according to a Freedom from Facebook petition that launched on Monday. They also want the FTC to impose strong privacy rules and allow people to communicate across social networks. 

"Facebook has far too much control over our economy, our information ecosystem, our politics, and even our emotional well-being," said David Segal, co-founder and executive director of Demand Progress, one of the groups involved in the campaign. "Regulators haven't taken a meaningful stand against them -- and it is about time they do."

The petition backs its claim that Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have amassed too much power by saying the platform tracks people both on the web and in the real world, and shares personal information with advertisers. The groups also say Facebook "unilaterally decides the news that billions of people around the world see every day," and "buys up or bankrupts potential competitors to protect its monopoly."

People have become more wary of how much information they share with the world's largest social network after data on 87 million Facebook users was allegedly misused by Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm, during the 2016 presidential election. Since the data mining scandal, Facebook has updated its data policy, and Zuckerberg issued an apology and testified before Congress. Zuckerberg has also said Facebook would support political ad regulation, after Russian trolls used the social network to meddle in the presidential campaign.

For its part, Facebook says it's better able to fight spam and abuse -- as well as quickly build new features -- by working under one roof. 

"We support smart privacy regulation and efforts that make it easier for people to take their data to competing services," a Facebook representative said. "But rather than wait, we've simplified our privacy controls and introduced new ways for people to access and delete their data, or to take their data with them."

The groups involved in the campaign include Demand Progress, The Open Markets Institute, SumOfUs, Content Creators Coalition, Citizens Against Monopoly, Jewish Voice for Peace, MPower Change, and MoveOn Civic Action.

The FTC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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