FTC and states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup

The Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorneys general filed wide-ranging antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, setting the stage for a potential breakup of the social-networking giant over charges it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to buy, bully or kill its rivals. The twin lawsuits filed in federal district court chiefly challenge Facebook’s past acquisition of two companies: Instagram, a photo-sharing tool, and WhatsApp, a messaging service. Federal and state investigators allege the deals ultimately helped solidify Facebook as a dominant digital juggernaut with the power to weaponize its data to ensure no other company could catch up — leaving web users with few quality, privacy-protective social-networking alternatives.

The lawsuits together represent the most significant political and legal threats to Facebook in its roughly 17-year history, setting the stage for a high-profile clash between US regulators and Silicon Valley that could take years to resolve. Antitrust regulators explicitly asked a court to consider forcing Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp to remedy their competition concerns, seeking a wide array of legal relief to constrain Facebook’s further expansion. The Federal Trade Commission, led by Republican Chairman Joe Simons, brought its lawsuit in a Washington, DC district court alleging Facebook engaged in “illegal monopolization.” Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, led her Democratic and Republican counterparts from dozens of states and territories in filing their complaint in the same venue.


U.S., states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup U.S. and States Say Facebook Illegally Crushed Competition (New York Times) FTC v Facebook