The partial government shutdown now certain to stretch through into the new year will have sweeping effects, from stalling important scientific research to vast economic impacts. But according to the Washington Post, the partial shutdown could also affect an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into social media giant Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Citing former government officials familiar with the FTC’s process, the Post reported that the shutdown comes at what may be a critical time in the agency’s information-gathering period, which could have significant implications for the probe:
Although the FTC’s budget allowed it to continue working through midday Friday, the impending lapse in funding will require it to suspend virtually all of its investigations and litigation. That would include the Facebook probe, according to David Vladeck, a former director of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau.
Preparations for the shutdown probably have already affected the probe, he said. “The key part of any investigation is the information-gathering stage, which is revealing documents and talking to people,” he said. “It just stops. And it has to stop in an organised way.”
The shutdown could put the FTC in a “weaker position against Facebook if the shutdown caused agency-imposed deadlines to slip” when it does return to operations, the Post reported, citing one former official.
But the FTC is hardly the only entity probing Facebook’s shady behaviour and ongoing scandals. Facebook faced numerous investigations into its conduct this year, including by the Department of Justice and FBI. And just last week, the DC attorney general filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the social media company violated the law by failing to protect user data.
As the most hellish public relations year in Facebook’s history winds to a close, its CEO and founder appears to be doing the Facebook equivalent of “tweeting through it.” In a lengthy Facebook post on Friday, Zuckerberg wrote that he was “proud of the progress we’ve made in 2018 and grateful to everyone who has helped us get here,” despite the fact that his company faces new scandals on a nearly weekly basis.
From data and security problems to election meddling on its platform and widespread disinformation and hate on its platform—some of which Zuckerberg himself acknowledged Friday “can never fully be solved”—it sure seems like Facebook’s staring down a world of problems in the coming new year.