US govt, states file twin lawsuits against Facebook for anti-competitive practices

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Washington [US], December 10  : Dozens of states, along with the US federal government, sued social media platform Facebook on Wednesday in twin antitrust lawsuits, alleging that it has abused its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could require the company to divest assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp, among other things, which can result in breaking up Facebook itself, reported CNN.
“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans…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,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement.
The two complaints focus on Facebook’s acquisition and control over Instagram and WhatsApp, two key social media services, and come roughly 14 months after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office was leading a group of attorneys general in investigating Facebook for potential anti-competitive practices, CNN reported.
“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition… By using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company perceived to be potential threats,” James said on Wednesday.
According to the state suit, Facebook’s alleged misconduct has resulted in consumers being harmed.
Internet users have fewer choices among social media platforms and poorer experiences, the complaint said, while the tech industry has suffered from “reduced investment in potentially competing services”.
State officials also said that Facebook opened its platform to third-party app developers to draw them into the company’s orbit, and then cut off their access to Facebook’s services once the social media giant perceived them to be a competitive threat.
According to CNN, Facebook’s dominance has raised questions by some legal experts, including US lawmakers, about whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set out to neutralize competitive threats by gobbling them up.
Wednesday’s legal action makes Facebook the second global tech company after Google to be taken to court by the US and state government officials this year over antitrust concerns.
In October, the Justice Department and 11 states filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that it had stifled competition to maintain its powerful place in online search and search advertising, which Google called ‘deeply flawed’.

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