US govt, 48 states sue Facebook for ‘abusing market power’

Washington: The US government and 48 states have filed parallel 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.

Soon after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 48 state attorney generals on Wednesday sued the company, Facebook's shares dropped significantly at the stock exchanges.

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 course of 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, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users," James told reporters at a news conference.

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," he said.

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