By Raymond Wolfe
The Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from 48 states and territories filed lawsuits yesterday to break up Facebook, alleging years of illegal, anticompetitive practices by the social media giant. The suits center on Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and seek to mandate approval from states and the FTC for future mergers.
Facebook’s conduct “harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition,” the FTC said yesterday.
Wednesday’s lawsuits come one year after the FTC fined Facebook a record $5 billion for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal that jeopardized millions of users’ personal data. They also follow recent antitrust action against Google by the Department of Justice and nearly a dozen states.
Facebook criticized the new legal challenges yesterday as “revisionist history,” noting that the FTC “cleared these acquisitions years ago.” The company had announced another major acquisition of a smaller rival just last week, days after reports of impending antitrust cases broke.
The effort to break apart Facebook’s social network empire has won bipartisan praise in D.C., with strong backing from Democrats, despite Joe Biden’s team’s close ties to Facebook and Big Tech.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri tweeted yesterday that the suits are “a necessity.” “The @instagram and WhatsApp mergers with @Facebook were anti-competitive, they were meant to be anti-competitive, and they should be broken up,” he said.
“I am glad to see that our antitrust enforcers are finally taking the threats posed by Big Tech seriously,” Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said. “At the same time, the FTC previously cleared both the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions, and I hesitate to congratulate it now for trying to clean up its own mess.”