American social media and software companies have had notorious difficulty with European courts, which tend to value privacy and antitrust laws more highly than American courts. Think Microsoft, Intel and Google. Now Facebook is facing significant legal battles in Europe.
"Move over, Google. Facebook is the latest American tech giant that Europeans love to hate," writes Mark Scott of the New York Times.
The European Union trying to decide if Facebook and other tech companies "unfairly favor their own services over those of rivals," according to the New York Times. As well, data protection watchdogs are critical of Facebook's privacy settings. Next month, a court will decide whether Facebook can transfer data between Europe and the US without greater regulation. This court decision could have consequences far beyond Facebook. Many tech companies move data between the US and Europe for advertising purposes.
Facebook has been growing its capacity for Instant messaging, online publishing and digital advertising. All of these features are under regulatory scrutiny in Europe.
After Facebook purchased WhatsApp, several Europe's cellphone carriers suggested that the deal violated antitrust laws. According to the New York Times, "Carriers say that by combining WhatsApp with Facebook's own messaging service, the company has a virtual monopoly over how people send messages on their smartphones." However, Europe's antitrust authorities eventually approved the WhatsApp and Facebook combination, though some lawmakers think that Facebook's messaging services should be regulated like traditional cellphone carriers.
"Platforms like Facebook have grown quickly to become global forces," Serafino Abate, a director at the Center on Regulation in Europe, told the New York Times. "But with that size comes responsibility."
Facebook isn't taking the European legal action lying down. Instead, Facebook has increased spending on lobbying in Europe to more than half a million dollars and have hired esteemed legal counsel.