FTC, 46 states file antitrust suit against Facebook, seek Instagram & WhatsApp break-up

Facebook Monopoly

"Just as with Instagram, WhatsApp presented a powerful threat to Facebook's personal social networking monopoly, which Facebook targeted for acquisition rather than competition".

Democratic and Republican attorneys general from 48 USA states and territories, including NY, are behind one of the suits announced Wednesday.

The FTC and a coalition of attorneys general representing 46 states, the District of Columbia and Guam filed twin lawsuits on Wednesday against Facebook, alleging that the social media company has engaged in anticompetitive practices.

Critics have held that the 2.7 billion users Facebook has acquired since its 2004 founding, along with its data collection and ownership of other platforms, including Instagram - which it purchased for $1 billion in 2012 - and WhatsApp - acquired for $19 billion in 2014 - amount to a monopoly that smaller companies can not rival.

'For almost a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users, ' said James, a Democrat, in a statement.

Still, the litigation follows a massive change in the USA political fortunes for Facebook and Zuckerberg, who co-founded the company in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 and now ranks fifth on Forbes' list of the world's richest billionaires.

New Jersey and dozens of others states accused Facebook on Wednesday of squashing competition to form a monopoly.

"We're reviewing the complaints & will have more to say soon", the company said.

Facebook is facing accusations of breaking competition law by cutting privacy protections for users, monetising data and suppressing innovation.

The FTC is aiming for a permanent injunction that would require the divestitures of assets that include Instagram and WhatsApp, which would mean Facebook would be forced to sell the two social networks. James said the coalition worked collaboratively with the FTC but noted the attorneys general conducted their investigation separately.

Facebook's leadership also allegedly understood and feared that a successful mobile messaging app like WhatsApp could enter the social networking market, which is why it pursued the WhatsApp acquisition. The company measured how much time users would spend on other mobile apps, giving Facebook an "early bird warning system" about potential competitors, the House report found. Zuckerberg vowed both companies would be run independently, but over the years the services have become increasingly integrated. Instagram now has more than 1 billion users worldwide.

Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram - all owned by Facebook - all have more than a billion monthly users.