Five Questions With: David N. Cicilline

A need for more accountability and government regulation in the tech space is an area in which Rep. David N. Cicilline, D-R.I., has taken a special interest. He’s asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether or not Facebook has broken antitrust laws, telling The New York Times, “The FTC has a credibility crisis. … American antitrust agencies have not pursued a significant monopoly case in more than two decades. … Given all that we’ve learned recently about Facebook’s predatory behavior, it’s clear that serious enforcement is long overdue.”

Cicilline spoke with PBN on the issue of Facebook and privacy.

PBN: Facebook’s growth has been quick. What is the biggest issue with the social media platform?

CICILLINE: Facebook has many problems. As the chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, my focus is Facebook’s market dominance. Facebook has acquired its major competitors, and reports suggest it has used its dominance to undermine competition. That’s why I’ve written a letter urging the FTC to open an antitrust investigation into whether Facebook has engaged in anticompetitive conduct.

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PBN: What do you think led to Facebook’s relatively unchecked growth in the tech space?

CICILLINE: When Facebook first entered the market, it promised users greater privacy. Users and publishers flocked to Facebook partly due to its superior offering. But once Facebook became dominant, it went back on its privacy commitments. It also purchased its biggest competitive threats. That’s why we need an antitrust investigation.

PBN: What dangers do you think social media users face online today?

CICILLINE: Dangers range from the relentless surveillance of user activity and reckless misuse of personal information to the manipulation of social media by our geopolitical adversaries.

PBN: You are part of a force rising up against monopolies such as Facebook, along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Tell us about that effort.

CICILLINE: There is bipartisan support for looking into whether large tech platforms are abusing their market power. People from across the political spectrum are justifiably concerned about these issues.

PBN: What is your prediction on what will happen next with these issues?

CICILLINE: We are going to continue our investigation into the digital markets and decide what, if any, changes we need to bring our antitrust laws up to speed for the 21st century.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.