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EU, U.K. launch antitrust investigations into Facebook

LONDON (Monitoring Desk): The European Union and United Kingdom opened dual antitrust investigations into Facebook on Friday to determine if the social media company distorts competition in the classified advertising market.

Why it matters: The new investigations are the latest salvo in European regulators’ crackdown on Big Tech companies, in an attempt to even the playing field and save local businesses.

Driving the news: The European Commission is specifically seeking to determine whether Facebook holds an unfair advantage over its competitors by placing its own classified ad service, Marketplace, inside of the social network.

  • The U.K.’s antitrust regulator said it is examining whether Facebook’s access to user data gives it an unfair advantage over competitors providing classified data and online dating services.

What they’re saying: “Facebook collects vast troves of data on the activities of users of its social network and beyond, enabling it to target specific customer groups,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s digital czar, said in a statement.

  • “We will look in detail at whether this data gives Facebook an undue competitive advantage, in particular on the online classified ads sector,” she added.
  • “We intend to thoroughly investigate Facebook’s use of data to assess whether its business practices are giving it an unfair advantage in the online dating and classified ad sectors,” Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority, said in a statement.

The other side: Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that its Marketplace and Dating services “operate in a highly competitive environment with many large incumbents. We will continue to cooperate fully with the investigations to demonstrate that they are without merit.”