Watchdog Petitions FTC for New Regulations on Google, Facebook, Twitter

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The relationship between users and advertisers on social media can sometimes seem a little confusing, especially when the social media companies have all manner of information about potential customers to translate into targeted demographics. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by one particular watchdog, who wants the Federal Trade Commission to step in, for its own sake.

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, created in 1996 to “provide Congress with independent analyses of agency regulations,” according to its website, has filed a petition with the FTC to impose trade regulations on Google, Facebook and Twitter, creating specific rules for their operating in “two-sided markets.”

(MORE: Why is the FTC Investigating Twitter’s Business Practices?)

The CRE petition, which points out that “all three firms are reported to be either under FTC investigation (Google and Twitter) or the subject of a petition to the FTC to be investigated (Facebook),” suggests that users and advertisers are “two distinct supply and demand curves, one set for each side of the market,” and those distinct markets need to be formally addressed before any FTC investigation proceeds:

Unless the Commission has a trade rule in place for web-based services companies that operate in two-sided markets, e.g. Google, Facebook and Twitter, prior to commencing an investigation, the result would be a public perception of the agency interpreting ambiguous rules to obtain a preconceived solution.

The FTC has not responded to the petition at this time.

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

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.