Facebook Inc may be forced to sell its prized assets WhatsApp and Instagram after the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and nearly every state in the US filed lawsuits against the social media company, alleging it used a “buy or bury” strategy to gobble up rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay.
With the filing of the twin lawsuits on Wednesday, Facebook becomes the second big tech company to face a major legal challenge this year after the US Justice Department sued Alphabet Inc’s Google in October, accusing the $1 trillion company of using its market power to fend off rivals.
The lawsuits underscores the growing bipartisan consensus to hold Big Tech accountable for its business practices and mark a rare moment of agreement between the Trump administration and Democrats, some of whom have advocated breaking up both Google and Facebook.
The complaints on Wednesday accused Facebook of buying up rivals, focusing specifically on its previous acquisitions of photo-sharing app Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014.
Federal and state regulators said the acquisitions should be unwound — a move that is likely to set off a long legal challenge as the deals were cleared years earlier by the FTC.
“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals, snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James on behalf of the coalition of 46 states, Washington, D.C. and Guam.
Facebook’s general counsel Jennifer Newstead called the lawsuits “revisionist history” and said antitrust laws do not exist to punish. “successful companies.”
Facebook’s general counsel Jennifer Newstead said WhatsApp and Instagram have succeeded after Facebook invested billions of dollars in growing the apps.