FTC & 46 States Hit Facebook With Antitrust Suits

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and more than 40 states accused Facebook on Wednesday, December 9, of becoming a social media monopoly by buying up its rivals to illegally kill competition, reported Bloomberg.

Federal and state regulators, which have been investigating the company for over 18 months, stated in separate lawsuits that Facebook’s purchases, especially Instagram for US$1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for US$19 billion two years later, eliminated competition that could have one day challenged the company’s dominance.

The FTC’s case is its most ambitious in recent memory and it seeks to unwind Facebook’s prior acquisitions of the photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp, reported the Wall Street Journal. It comes just weeks after the Justice Department brought an antitrust lawsuit targeting Google’s flagship search engine business. Each federal agency now has its own once-in-a-generation case at the same time, a signal of the level of US concern about the power of dominant online platforms.

The suits come roughly 14 months after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office was leading a group of attorneys general in investigating Facebook for potential anticompetitive practices. More than 40 attorneys general ultimately signed onto Wednesday’s complaint. The FTC, meanwhile, has been conducting its own antitrust investigation of Facebook since June 2019.

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said Attorney General Letitia James of New York, who led the multistate investigation into the company’s in parallel with the federal agency.

The lawsuits, filed in the US District Court of the District of Columbia, underscore the growing bipartisan and international tsunami against Big Tech. Lawmakers and regulators have zeroed in on the grip that Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple maintain on commerce, electronics, social networking, search and online advertising, remaking the nation’s economy. President Trump has argued repeatedly that the tech giants have too much power and influence, and allies of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. have made similar complaints.