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Omar Oakes 

Facebook faces antitrust probes in UK and EU

Facebook faces antitrust probes in UK and EU

Facebook is being investigated by antitrust regulators in the UK and the European Union over whether the social media behemoth's use of customer data for online advertising is anticompetitive.

This morning, the UK's Competition & Markets Authority announced it is investigating whether Facebook has "gained an unfair advantage over competitors in providing services for online classified ads and online dating, through how it gathers and uses certain data".

The CMA said it will look into whether Facebook has unfairly used the data gained from its advertising and single sign-on to benefit its own services.

In particular, the competition regulator is looking at Facebook Marketplace, where users and businesses can put up classified ads to sell items,  and Facebook Dating – a dating profile service Facebook launched in Europe in 2020.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said: "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.

Any such advantage can make it harder for competing firms to succeed, including new and smaller businesses, and may reduce customer choice.

"We will be working closely with the European Commission as we each investigate these issues, as well as continuing our coordination with other agencies to tackle these global issues."

Separately, the European Union's antitrust watchdog is opening a formal investigation into whether Facebook violated EU law by "using advertising data gathered in particular from advertisers in order to compete with them in markets where Facebook is active, such as classified ads".

The EU's competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, will focus on Facebook's vast amounts of data from more than 6 million companies that advertise on the platform.

"In today's digital economy, data should not be used in ways that distort competition," Vestager said.

A Facebook spokesman said: "We are always developing new and better services to meet evolving demand from people who use Facebook. Marketplace and Dating offer people more choices and both products 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.”

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