Timeline on Monopoly Lawsuit Regarding Social Networking
The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook in 2020 for monopolizing the personal social networking market. Filed in the waning days of the Trump Administration, the FTC complaint was joined by a similar lawsuit brought by 48 State Attorneys General. While both complaints were initially dismissed by a federal judge, the court allowed the FTC to file an amended complaint, and the case is now proceeding to discovery.
The FTC alleges that Facebook buys up rivals and uses its dominance to suppress competitors it can’t acquire. The complaint directly quotes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying “it is better to buy than compete.” The suit alleges that during the rise of mobile apps in the early 2010s, Facebook identified Instagram as a threat and tried to outcompete the app “on the merits.” But after realizing Facebook couldn’t produce a better product, it moved to buy Instagram instead. Around the same time, the FTC alleges that Facebook worried that mobile messaging platform WhatsApp could “break into” the social networking market and threaten its monopoly. After determining WhatsApp was “the biggest threat we’ve ever faced as a company,” the suit says, Facebook targeted it for acquisition as well.
In its initial complaint, the FTC alleged that Facebook also restricted access to key parts of its platform from third party apps, preventing them from competing with Facebook on core functions or working with rival social media networks. However, those particular claims have been dismissed by a federal judge.
The FTC is asking the Court to order Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp and to require the firm to seek prior approval for any further acquisitions.