As expected, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with a coalition of US jurisdictions, has sued Facebook over antitrust accusations.
Facebook has been under increasing scrutiny for its habit of buying up smaller competitors in an effort to head off potential threats. Among its most high-profile acquisition were Instagram and WhatsApp. Instagram, in particular, was a major threat to Facebook, as it quickly gained a following and posed a threat to Facebook’s dominance.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed antitrust charges against Google in October, leading many to believe a case against Facebook would soon follow. The FTC, along with 46 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, has filed charges.
“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “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.”
The complaint hinges on two main areas: anticompetitive acquisitions and anticompetitive platform conduct. Instagram and WhatsApp are examples of Facebook buying platforms and companies it perceived as a threat and was struggling to compete against. Facebook, meanwhile, has maintained that its acquisition of these services helped them grow into the successful platforms they currently are.
Anticompetitive platform conduct involves accusations that Facebook restricts third-party access to certain APIs unless companies agree not to create competing services. Facebook has even taken measures to cut off competitors’ access to such APIs if they developed services Facebook deemed a threat. For example, when Twitter rolled out its Vine video sharing service, Facebook prevented Vine users from being able to access their Facebook friends.
The specific jurisdictions involved in the case are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.