The FTC's Revised Facebook Suit; Legal Analyst Says Platform Should Be Regulated Like Big Tobacco

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FTC You Next Time

The FTC had its Facebook antitrust case dismissed, and recently refiled a new suit. The issue is if Facebook’s competition includes YouTube, Snap, Pinterest, TikTok, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, Spotify, Hulu and Netflix, then it’s hardly a monopolized market. The FTC’s response was to whittle Facebook’s market down to “Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services,” consisting of three services: Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Judge James Boasberg’s dismissal of the case indicates how difficult it is to bring antitrust suits against tech platforms. “The FTC’s Complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined antitrust product market. It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist. After all, no one who hears the title of the 2010 film ‘The Social Network’ wonders which company it is about. Yet, whatever it may mean to the public, ‘monopoly power’ is a term of art under federal law with a precise economic meaning: the power to profitably raise prices or exclude competition in a properly defined market.” Stratechery has a breakdown of the FTC’s revisions. 

Wacky Tobaccy

Speaking of shaky market definitions, CNN legal analyst Asha Rangappa, former associate dean of Yale Law School, writes in an article for the law journal Cafe that Facebook should be as assiduously regulated as Big Tobacco. Rangappa argues Facebook and Instagram manipulate their feeds to generate dopamine rushes and, in cases, addiction. At a national, unregulated scale, she said Facebook’s impact on public health is akin to secondhand smoke. Widespread vaccine misinformation might be tied to COVID-19 deaths, for example. “Detrimental effects at the individual level now have spillover consequences that affect everyone.” Rangappa also pointed to the Surgeon General’s national advisory from July, the first such advisory of President Biden’s term, that vaccine misinformation spread by technology platforms represents an “urgent threat” right now. 

Nothing New

The Media Rating Council stripped Nielsen of its National and Local TV Rating accreditations, but the complaints at the core of the imbroglio are nothing new, writes media consultant Brad Adgate in Forbes. Broadcasters have grumbled for years, since Nielsen reports the steady decline of linear audiences. Then, Nielsen systemically underreported TV audiences during the pandemic. And now those complaints have cascaded into the MRC and into a public debate about media measurement. Is there still a place for panel-based metrics? Can a single audience rating accurately tally viewership across linear, streaming, mobile and desktop? NBCUniversal is calling for the end of a single measurement currency in TV, and for the industry to embrace alternatives, such as Comscore, Data Plus Math, iSpot, LiveRamp and VideoAmp – not to mention NBCU’s proprietary products. Discovery CEO David Zaslav scorched Nielsen in his recent earnings report. But Adgate said Nielsen has fended off similar attacks for decades. “With ad revenue tied so closely to TV ratings, networks, for the past 30-plus years, have, at times, questioned Nielsen’s ratings reports.

But Wait, There’s More!  

Data Axle acquired Lake Group Media and DonorBase. [release]

The silent partner cleaning up Facebook (or trying to) for $500M per year. [NYT]

Contentsquare acquired Hotjar. [release]

Tech companies are attempting to make private browsing mainstream. [Digiday]

Intuit could potentially buy Mailchimp for more than $10B. [Bloomberg]

You’re Hired

Deutsch NY taps Nicole Souza as CMO. [Mediapost]

Angi hires Dhanusha Sivajee as CMO. [Adweek]

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