Web Desk — On Thursday, the European Union’s powerful antitrust chief fined the social network 110 million euros, or about $122 million, for giving misleading statements during the company’s $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.
Facebook fined $122 million by E.U. over misleading statements in WhatsApp acquisition https://t.co/3dnHOh5ase
— NYTimes Tech (@nytimestech) May 19, 2017
The fine — one of the largest regulatory penalties against Facebook — comes days after Dutch and French privacy watchdogs ruled that the company had broken strict data protection rules. Other European countries, notably Germany, are clamping down on social media companies, including issuing potentially hefty penalties for failing to sufficiently police hate speech and misinformation.
The European Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, said that Facebook had told the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, that the social network would not combine the company’s data with that of WhatsApp, which has more than one billion users.
Yet last August, Facebook announced that it would begin sharing WhatsApp data with the rest of the company. That could allow it to gain an unfair advantage over rivals, by giving it access to greater amounts of data to help support its online advertising business.
“Today’s decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of E.U. merger rules,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement. “And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The commission must be able to take decisions about mergers’ effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts.”