US sues FB for using monopoly power to ‘crush’ rivals

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The US federal government and 48 states have filed parallel antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, accusing the social media giant of anti-competitive conduct by abusing its market power to create a monopoly and crushing smaller competitors, a move which may force it to sell WhatsApp and Instagram.

Soon after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 48 state attorney-generals on Wednesday sued the California-headquartered company, Facebook’s shares dropped significantly.

The bipartisan coalition led by New York attorney-general Letitia James alleged that Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This includes its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anti-competitive conditions on software developers.

According to the federal complaint, this conduct by Facebook harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.

For nearly a decade, FB used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users, James told reporters.

Revisionist history: FB

Opposing the lawsuit, Jennifer Newstead, vice-president and general counsel of Facebook, described it as revisionist history. “This lawsuit risks sowing doubt and uncertainty about the US government’s own merger review process and whether acquiring businesses can actually rely on the outcomes of the legal process.

“It would also punish companies for protecting their investment and technology from free-riding by those who did not pay for the innovation, making those companies less likely over the long term to make their platforms available to spur the growth of new products and services, she said.

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