Everybody Wants a Piece of Facebook

Everybody Wants a Piece of Facebook
Photo: Alastair Pike, Getty Images

The day after the FTC and dozens of Attorneys General filed two separate suits against Facebook over it anticompetitive track record, the company’s being slammed with yet another antitrust probe — this time, from Germany’s antitrust regulator. Specifically, the country’s Federal Cartel Office (otherwise known as The Bundeskartellamt) announced plans to investigate the tie between Oculus’s virtual reality hardware and Facebook’s social network.

Just to give a brief recap, one of the reasons that the Facebook-owned company recently landed on the shit lists of privacy advocates and VR enthusiasts alike was the company’s recent move to require Oculus users log in with their Facebook accounts. As the company announced back in August, VR-heads will have until 2023 before support for all Oculus-specific accounts gets cut off for good.

“Using a VR profile that is backed by a Facebook account and authentic identity helps us protect our community and makes it possible to offer additional integrity tools,” Oculus said at the time. “For example, instead of having a separate Oculus Code of Conduct, we will adopt Facebook’s Community Standards as well as a new additional VR-focused policy.”

Germany’s not convinced. Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt said in a statement that the required link between VR products and Facebook’s social network “could constitute a prohibited abuse of dominance” on the part of the tech giant.

“We intend to examine whether and to what extent this tying arrangement will affect competition in both areas of activity,” he went on.

It’s worth noting here that the linkage news came on the heels of Oculus cofounder Nate Mitchell announcing he was leaving Facebook for greener pastures, marking the exit of the last original Oculus staffer from Facebook’s HQ. Not long after that, Facebook rebranded its augmented and virtual reality division to Facebook Reality Labs.

This is the second antitrust probe against the company being spearheaded by German authorities. Back in 2019, the Bundeskartellamt lobbed an order at Facebook meant to prevent the company’s myriad platforms from combining user data obtained from third-party sources. Facebook scrambled to block the order and succeeded — though a hearing on the main proceeding is scheduled for mid-2021. And aside from the two cases in Germany, the company’s also faced its fair share of scrutiny from other regulatory bodies throughout the European Union.