FTC Reveals Comscore Data Detailing Facebook Dominance

The Federal Trade Commission released Comscore figures showing Facebook’s marketplace dominance. From September 2012 through December 2020, the network generated 92 percent of the monthly time U.S. users spent on social media. In contrast, the combined market shares of Snap, Google+, MeWe and Friendster never exceeded 18 percent in any month during that time frame. A federal judge dismissed the case in June noting that the FTC did not offer details of its monopoly claim; these findings are now part of the FTC’s lawsuit.

Bloomberg reports that, after the judge dismissed the case, “the FTC filed a revised complaint in August with the user data redacted.” But U.S. District Judge James Boasberg might not be satisfied since, in his dismissal, he wrote that daily and monthly average user information might “significantly overstate or understate any one firm’s market share depending on the various proportions of users who have accounts on multiple services.” He added that “total time spent on the platform may be a metric of ‘limited utility’.”

The case highlights “the difficulty of defining the contours of the social networking market, which companies should be included and finding the right metrics to measure it … [since] consumer technology companies have always defined and self-reported their growth metrics.”

There is also “no way to know how many people use multiple services.” But the FTC did state that, “Facebook uses Comscore data to prepare materials for chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg.”

Among social media platforms, Snapchat is a “distant No. 2.” In the time frame under review, “Facebook’s share of daily average users among social networking apps averaged 80 percent per month for smartphones, 86 percent per month in tablets, and 98 percent per month for desktop computers.”

The FTC added that, “Facebook’s share hasn’t dropped below 70 percent in any month on any type of device … [and] only Snapchat reached a share higher than 10 percent on any device.” The FTC’s data, however, does not include TikTok; “according to newly revealed internal communications included in the complaint, Facebook doesn’t consider the video app as a competitor either.”

Reuters reports that the FTC will “hold its next open meeting on September 15 to hear staff findings on deals that Big Tech firms like Facebook and Apple make which are sometimes too small to spark antitrust scrutiny,” and will include acquisitions made from 2010 to 2019. The agency has already “sent demands for information to five Big Tech firms, including Microsoft, in February 2020, saying that it wanted to probe whether any of the smaller deals resulted in harm to competition.”

The five commissioners will “also consider whether to scrap guidelines put in place during the Trump administration regarding deals that combine a company with one of its suppliers … [and] vote on whether to issue a policy statement on privacy breaches by health apps and a process for accepting input on potential rules.”

Related:
UK.gov Is Launching an Anti-Facebook Encryption Push. Don’t Think of the Children: Think of the Nuances and Edge Cases Instead, The Register, 9/8/21