Mark Zuckerberg is said to have testified under oath for two days as part of the Federal Trade Commission’s anti-trust investigation into Facebook.
The social network’s CEO spoke with the agency remotely in testimony that could be used to build a case against the social media giant, Politico reports.
Headed by Chairman Joseph Simons, the FTC is leading a probe into how the social media giant’s practices affect its digital competition and whether the platform broke anti-trust laws. Simons had refused to say whether they planned to speak with Zuckerberg regarding the antitrust probe when asked on August 5.
But the move is not said to mean the commission will definitely pursue an antitrust lawsuit; the agency is said to often interview relevant parties under oath. Neither Facebook or the FTC have commented.
News of the FTC’s latest interest comes weeks after Zuckerberg faced a congressional antitrust hearing along with the heads of Google, Apple and Amazon.
In July it was reported the FTC were looking at deposing Zuckerberg and his chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. The agency had already been criticized for not speaking with Zuckerberg as part of the Cambridge Analytica investigations.
And officials at the social media platform were said to have been braced for the possibility of depositions and concerned that they could happen, a person familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.
While many of the complaints about Facebook are about how it handles content such as political misinformation and hate speech, some activists say Facebook was allowed to squelch competition by buying up smaller rivals, and that this could form the basis of an antitrust action.
A Federal Trade Commission review of acquisitions dating back to 2010 could potentially ‘unwind’ some of the deals.
The four major tech firms whose chief executives testified at a congressional antitrust hearing at the end of last month face a variety of complaints about their dominance in the US and elsewhere.
Investigations are being led by antitrust enforcers at the FTC as well as the Justice Department and by authorities in US states. The FTC says it aims to ‘preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices’.
The Justice Department and the commission both oversee antitrust issues in the US and typically must establish who will take the lead in different investigations into competitive practices.
Citing unnamed sources, the Journal previously reported that the FTC was to look into whether Facebook engaged in what it called ‘unlawful monopolistic behavior.’
The Justice Department, in turn, would probe Google and a review of Apple’s degree of influence over app development, the New York Times reported.
Facebook has recently faced criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices. Last year, it agreed to pay a record $5 billion fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission data privacy probe.
The social network is reaching close to three billion people worldwide with its core platform along with Instagram and messaging services WhatsApp and Messenger.
An estimated seven-in-ten US adults use Facebook and its reach allows it to play an outsized role in digital advertising and in delivering news and information.