New York, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of attorneys general from 46 states and the District of Columbia filed separate lawsuits Wednesday accusing Facebook of violating antitrust legislation.
Both suits focus on Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which the FTC characterized as motivated by a desire to eliminate competitors.
The FTC suit cites a 2008 email in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “it is better to buy than compete.”
A victory for the plaintiffs in either case could see Facebook forced to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.
The FTC is also seeking to have Facebook barred from imposing anticompetitive conditions on third-party software developers and to make future mergers and acquisitions by the firm subject to pre-approval by regulators.
“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement.
“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,” Conner said.
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and spent $19 billion two years later to acquire WhatsApp.
The FTC originally signed off on both of those deals, a fact emphasized by Facebook in its initial response to the filing of the suits.
“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 California-based company said.
Though the respective AG offices and the FTC collaborated on the investigation of Facebook’s business practices, the states opted to file a separate lawsuit.
“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,” New York state Attorney General Letitia James said.
“Instead of competing on the merits, Facebook used its power to suppress competition so it could take advantage of users and make billions by converting personal data into a cash cow. Almost every state in this nation has joined this bipartisan lawsuit because Facebook’s efforts to dominate the market were as illegal as they were harmful,” James said. EFE