In bombshell news, the FTC announced today that it is suing Facebook and calls for the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to be undone.
“The Federal Trade Commission today sued Facebook, alleging that the company is illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct,” reads the press release from the FTC. “Following a lengthy investigation in cooperation with a coalition of attorneys general of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the complaint alleges that Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy—including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anticompetitive conditions on software developers—to eliminate threats to its monopoly. This course of conduct harms competition, leaves consumers with few choices for personal social networking, and deprives advertisers of the benefits of competition.”
You can read the full lawsuit here. As you might expect, it is full of allegations of anti-competitive behavior. The consistent language claims that the social network “targeted [rivals] for acquisition rather than competition.”
If, like me, your first thought upon hearing this was to wonder whether this action will just be undone when Joe Biden takes office, FTC commissioners have seven-year terms. Absent a resignation, the FTC remains under Republican control until 2023.
Where this all goes from here is anyone’s guess. Facebook could choose to fight it to the bone. They would then either prevail and remain a full entity or lose in court and get broken up. In between those extremes, there is a wide range of concessions that Facebook could make to the government. Regardless, this will end up being one of the most important stories to follow in America for the next few years.