Facebook Admits It Is Expecting a Multibillion-Dollar Fine

An unprecedented FTC penalty is predicted in an investor report.

Mark Zuckerberg after meeting with politicians in Europe.Niall Carson/PA Wire

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Facebook is expecting to be hit with an unprecedented $3-$5 billion federal fine.

The revelation that the company anticipates such a massive fine, the result of a Federal Trade Commission investigation of the company’s privacy practices, came in an investor report released Wednesday. The fine would be the largest ever levied against a tech company by the FTC.

“The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome,” Facebook wrote in the quarterly earnings report where it disclosed the figure.

Facebook has been in negotiations with the FTC for months over the commission’s claims that the social media company violated a 2011 consent decree brokered with the FTC following an earlier investigation, in which the company made agreements not to violate user privacy.

In 2018, Facebook faced renewed criticism over its privacy practices after Cambridge Analytica, a British political research firm, was revealed to have improperly obtained data on tens of millions of its users. Later that year in March, the FTC confirmed it had opened an investigation into Facebook’s data privacy practices.

The company has received significant scrutiny from the public and lawmakers since the scandal came to light. Lawmakers in Congress and in parliaments around the world have hauled in Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to testify about how the company treats user data. Many of the legislators have floated new privacy legislation to protect user data.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend