Why Is the FTC Investigating Twitter’s Business Practices?

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The Federal Trade Commission has begun investigating Twitter’s business practices, specifically its acquisition of third party developers, Business Insider reports today. Details are sketchy at this point, but it seems like the case to be made is that Twitter is seeking to monopolize the platform it created and already owns.

Yes, that is weird.

Given that Twitter is in competition with Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr and any number of other social networking services, including the recently announced Google+, one has to wonder why the FTC is targeting the network, which is used by less than ten percent of Americans.

(MORE: Twitter Acquires TweetDeck, Won’t Kill It)

One speculation is that it may be the influence of Columbia University Law School professor Tim Wu, an ardent supporter of Internet regulation who is best known for coining the term “net neutrality.” Wu joined the FTC in February as a senior adviser.

In November of 2010, Wu published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled In the Grip of the New Monopolists in which he listed Facebook, Amazon, Skype, Twitter, Apple, eBay and Google as potential monopolists.

In the article, he laments what he sees as lax enforcement of the Sherman Act and said that unfortunately “today we don’t have the heart to euthanize a healthy firm like Facebook just because it’s huge and happens to know more about us than the IRS.”

Today’s announcement makes Twitter the third company on Wu’s list of “monopolists” to face an investigation since he joined the FTC. An investigation of Apple was announced earlier this year, and Google disclosed it was being investigated last week.

While correlation is not the same thing as causation, one has to wonder which company from Wu’s list is next.

Jerry Brito is a contributor to TIME. Find him on Twitter at @jerrybrito. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

MORE: FTC Preparing to Subpoena Google over Abuse of Power?

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