FTC examining Facebook disclosures: report

The Federal Trade Commission building in Washington, D.C., is seen on June 18.
Greg Nash

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into disclosed Facebook documents that indicate the company may have violated its 2019 settlement with the regulatory agency over privacy concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Staff at the agency have reportedly started looking at internal Facebook research that identified ill effects of the company’s products, and whether it violated the settlement agreements, according to the Journal. 

The FTC declined to comment.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is “always ready to answer regulators’ questions and will continue to cooperate with government inquiries.”

Facebook agreed to pay a record $5 billion penalty to the FTC in 2019 to settle charges of privacy violations in the company’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The FTC found Facebook deceived users about privacy protections while allowing third parties to harvest their data. 

This month, Facebook has been embroiled in another scandal after a company whistleblower, Frances Haugen, leaked documents with internal Facebook research. She came forward publicly to testify before the Senate and the U.K. parliament and is scheduled to meet with EU leaders. 

The reports, and Haugen’s public comments, described Facebook as failing to take action on known problems on its platforms for fear it would hurt profits. 

Facebook has pushed back on reports about the documents, arguing the research has been mischaracterized. 

“At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. 

The FTC’s reported examination of disclosures comes as the agency is chaired by tech critic Lina Khan, and as the agency pushes forward with its antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. 

Facebook has pushed back on claims of anticompetitive behavior.

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