The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have joined forces to accuse Facebook of antitrust violations. And they want the most severe of penalties: To break up the social media giant.
“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” FTC director Ian Conner said of the massive antitrust lawsuit. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”
By “roll back,” Mr. Conner means that the FTC is seeking to break up Facebook by requiring it to sever itself from two of its biggest acquisitions, Instagram and WhatsApp. It also would prohibit Facebook from “imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers” and require the firm to seek “prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions.”
According to the complaint, Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy to eliminate competition and extend its social media monopoly by acquiring companies that threaten it. This behavior, the complaint alleges, “harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.”
“We’re reviewing the complaints and will have more to say soon,” Facebook tweeted of the lawsuit. “Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day.”
The antitrust lawsuit comes after what the FTC said was a lengthy investigation of Facebook by the agency in close cooperation with a coalition of attorneys general under the coordination of the New York State Attorney General.