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A huge leak in Facebook documents gives the investigators ammunition

  A man in a T-shirt looks worried.
Enlarge / Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talks about Facebook news in New York, October 25, 2019.

Facebook faces a new one after more than 7,000 pages of confidential files resulting from a lawsuit had emerged yesterday, an intensive test was carried out worldwide yesterday. These documents are not the ones required by the California Attorney General. Therefore, the company also faces a legal challenge, which provides for the submission of further documents for an investigation under the charge of the stone wall.

The leaked clutter of documents pointing directly to the company's questionable position on the competition is likely to be extremely helpful to dozens of companies investigating Facebook for antitrust reasons. California, however, is conducting a privacy investigation.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit yesterday in order to enforce a summons to Facebook. The petition (PDF) alleges that Facebook has not responded to repeated subpoenas and other legal requests for information related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the few who are not participating in the investigation. Nor does it participate in a joint investigation by Google involving 48 Attorney Generals.

Becerra told reporters in a press conference, "Today we are publishing this information because we have no choice." However, he declined to provide details about other aspects of this or any other possible Facebook investigation. However, he and all other regulators and attorneys general might find a reading worth Wednesday.

The Extract

The 7,000 pages of leaked information come from a 201

5 lawsuit filed against Facebook by a company called Six4Three.

Six4Three, which has long since ceased to exist, basically served an unforgettable app that Facebook searched for images of women in bikinis. Facebook changed the way an important API works in 2014 and destroyed the app from Six4Three. The developer sued for breach of contract and "fraudulent and anti-competitive practices". And then it became strange.

At that time, UK regulators also carried out an investigation on Facebook. A director of Six4Three was brought to a meeting in November 2018 with a Member of Parliament who reportedly "panicked" and suddenly surrendered confidential files from the case, despite warnings from a Californian judge.

The lawsuit itself was raised Even stranger from there, but the cache of documentation took on something of its own.

The documents leaked in smaller volumes last year and showed that Facebook has not only turned against data protection laws on a large scale. However, the EU also considered selling access to user data.

The entire record was eventually distributed to British journalist Duncan Campbell who passed the files to NBC News and a handful of other outlets earlier this year. Campbell and these news agencies finally released the whole lot to the public yesterday.

Juicy new parts

The documents seem to confirm two long-held, popular suspects against Facebook. First, the privacy of users is at best treated as an afterthought. And second, it's difficult to prevent the competition from becoming too powerful.


In 2014, Facebook significantly changed the way developers were able to access user information through its APIs. However, the company needed a way to sell such a large change and developed a description: Privacy.

Internal communications revealed that Facebook eventually linked the change to a review of another product: Facebook Login. In a March 2013 e-mail, Justin Osofsky wrote that the narrative will "focus on quality and user experience, which may well provide a good framework to stem some of the API devaluations."

The connection between the two was almost exclusively for messaging, showing more emails. In an e-mail sent in November 2013, Ilya Sukhar, Head of Developer Products, asked, "What does it mean to bind [the change] to login in addition to synchronized timing? Is it just messaging? What are you referring to?"

"Mainly news," another executive replied.

Later, Sukhar described the plan as "Switcharoo" and wrote in an e-mail dated February 2014:

Hey guys, I invited you all to a document that describes the details of the "switcharoo" plan some of us pushed around. I think it's a good compromise, despite all the limitations, and we'll be able to tell a story that makes sense.

Kill competition before it breaks out. Apps and services it does not own fall into one of three categories: current competition, potential future competition, or "developers we use to match business models."

In a series of e-mail exchanges from 2013, the decisions made by Facebook to ban potential competitors from advertising on its apps are also being considered. The email thread discussed in detail who qualified as a competitor – apart from Google, which was taken for granted.

Eventually, corporate executives seemed to agree that messenger apps pose a greater threat than other types of apps

"I think we should block WeChat, cocoa, and line ads," the CEO said Company, Mark Zuckerberg, in an e-mail from 2013. "These companies are trying to build and replace social networks, and the revenue is insignificant to us in comparison to any risk." I agree that we use ads for our own products but I would continue to hinder companies competing with our core from winning. " Every advantage of us.

Another series of e-mails from 2013 shows how the Facebook leadership has dealt with new competitors.

MessageMe, a messaging startup, was launched in 2013 and adopted by Yahoo in 2014. From Beginning on the Facebook lead MessageMe was seen as under threat from the competition to give the company access to its data, but Facebook was well aware of what it would be like to restrict MessageMe's access from the outside.

"In the first week after launching, MessageMe has not found any friends. No calls, "wrote Osofsky," but MessageMe has up to ~ 350K in the last week [monthly active users] and made 333K calls from friends. We'll be restricting access to friends.get soon. "Messenger apps that have recently been added to the radar of the growth team, and if so, we'd like to limit them at the same time in a press cycle."

Companies in however, this third area was able to do business with Facebook to restore access to user data after the API shift. For example, Amazon was approved because it spent money on advertising on Facebook.

Detective Ammunition

Facebook is currently the target of at least half a dozen different antitrust trials. In the United States, the House Antitrust Subcommittee, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and 47 Attorneys General are conducting investigations. European regulators are also working on their own competition procedures against the giant.

These investigations are not just about whether Facebook is a monopoly, which most associate with antitrust law. Instead, they focus on what Facebook has done with its market power. In particular, the use of data that a company, such as Facebook, collects from a business to prevent competitors from challenging other businesses, is the kind of behavior antitrust authorities use to get their metaphorical magnifying glasses out to conduct a thorough investigation. [19659037]
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