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Dozens of U.S. states and the federal government have sued Facebook in twin antitrust lawsuits, alleging that the The social media giant has abused its domain. in the digital market and engaging in anti-competitive behavior.
The Federal Trade Commission, in particular, is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things, require the company to dispose of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp. effectively breaking Facebook based on what we know. The agency also wants to require Facebook to request prior notification and approval for future mergers and acquisitions.

“Personal social media is critical to the lives of millions of Americans,” Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Office of Competition, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our goal is to roll back Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can flourish.”

Lawsuits initiated by the federal government and the US states call for the dissolution of Facebook, with the separation of assets such as WhatsApp. (AAP / supplied)

The parallel lawsuits, which have been in the works for months, represent an unprecedented challenge for one of the most powerful corporations in Silicon Valley. The complaints center on Facebook’s acquisition and control of Instagram and WhatsApp, two key services in its social media empire.

The lawsuits come about 14 months after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office was leading a group of attorneys general in the Facebook investigation for possible anti-competitive practices.

More than 40 attorneys general finally signed the complaint Wednesday. Meanwhile, the FTC has been conducting its own Facebook antitrust investigation since June 2019.

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and end competition,” James said at a news conference Wednesday. “By using its vast trove of data and money, Facebook has crushed or hampered what the company perceived as potential threats.”

The state lawsuit requires a court order requiring Facebook to notify state officials of any future acquisitions valued at $ 10 million (A $ 13 million) or more.

“The most important fact in this case, which the Commission does not mention in its 53-page complaint, is that it authorized these acquisitions years ago,” Jennifer Newstead, Facebook’s vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “The government now wants a new version, sending a chilling warning to American companies that no sale is final.”

Mark Zuckerbeg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced criticism from US politicians for his company’s anti-competitive behavior. (AAP)

“Individuals and small businesses don’t choose to use Facebook’s free advertising and services because they have to, but because our apps and services offer the most value,” added Ms. Newstead.

“We are going to vigorously defend the ability of people to continue making that decision.”

Much of Facebook’s scrutiny pertains to the companies it bought to create a massive audience that now totals more than three billion users in its app portfolio, according to its financial statements.

That domain has raised questions from some legal experts, including US politicians, about whether Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook set out to neutralize competitive threats by gobbling them up.

As the drumming in Washington against Facebook has grown louder, the company has had years to prepare for a showdown.

It has moved to tightly integrate its applications on a technical level, a move that some critics have suggested is a strategy to thwart any potential breakouts.

He has stepped up the hiring of experienced litigation and antitrust attorneys. And the company has honed its talking points, establishing a narrative that Facebook welcomes regulation, but that cracking down too harshly could give other countries like China a competitive advantage in the fast-moving tech sector.

Google has been accused of “misinformation” in its campaign against the draft ACCC code to share advertising revenue. (AP)

Wednesday’s legal action makes Facebook the second global tech company to be taken to court by state and U.S. government officials this year over antitrust concerns. In October, the Justice Department and 11 states filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that it had stifled competition to maintain its powerful place in online search and search-based advertising. (Google has called the lawsuit “deeply flawed” and that consumers use Google’s platform because they want to, not because they are forced to.)

The last major antitrust lawsuit for previous technology, experts say, dates back to the U.S. government’s landmark case against Microsoft in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

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