By Alex Heath
The anti-Facebook advocacy group at the center of the social network’s latest scandal thinks that regulation of big tech is imminent.
“I don’t think things are going to get better this time [for Facebook],” Sarah Miller, the deputy director of the Open Markets Institute, told Cheddar in an exclusive interview on Monday.
“I think they are going to really have to grapple with some serious lawmakers in the House come January. And I think even on the Republican side, we will see some bipartisan efforts to start to rein in this company.”
Miller’s Open Markets Institute formed the Freedom From Facebook coalition in D.C. earlier this year to protest what it said is anti-competitive and harmful behavior on the part of the world’s largest social network. Freedom From Facebook was thrust into the spotlight last week when The New York Times reported that Facebook ($FB) had hired an outside PR firm, Definers, to try and discredit Open Markets in the media and potentially link it to liberal billionaire George Soros.
“We weren’t necessarily completely surprised that Facebook would do something like this,” Miller said of The New York Times investigation, which led to Facebook severing its relationship with Definers. “We generally think they’re a pretty ruthless company. But I think we were surprised to find out that they were actually bad at being bad.”
A former hedge fund executive named David Magerman recently told Axios that he provided seed funding for Freedom From Facebook, which has organized protests against the company on Capitol Hill and is petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook’s business. Miller confirmed that Magerman — “among others” — was a funder of the coalition.
The main goal of Freedom From Facebook is to convince the FTC, which oversees antitrust concerns in the United States, to force Facebook to spin out Instagram and WhatsApp into separate corporations. Miller likened the situation to the 1980s, when the government forced AT&T to spin out parts of its business.
Facebook “has gone on a strategy of trying to amass as much market power as possible,” Miller said. “We think that fundamental to any solution is taking on Facebook’s market power in this way.”
She added that in Washington, D.C., “Facebook has been in hot water before, but it really seems to be reaching a boiling point after The New York Times story.”