More than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government are gearing up to throw the book at the Book… Facebook… with an antitrust lawsuit that’s set to be filed on Wednesday.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit will allege that Facebook deployed anticompetitive tactics in order to buy or neutralize its rivals and shore up its market dominance, specifically with its purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp.
Three people familiar with the lawsuit told the Washington Post under condition of anonymity that the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, led by New York’s Letitia James, will likely seek to compel a judge to force Facebook to unload some of its business assets in order to ameliorate concerns about competition in social media.
The lawsuit comes months after the Federal Trade Commission began a probe into the company’s alleged anti-competitive practices more than a year ago. In the summer of 2019, that probe ended with Facebook ultimately paying out a record-breaking $5 billion fine for mishandling millions of users’ personal data in the infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal.
But still, some critics bemoaned the fact that the punishment didn’t go far enough, with notable voices like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren calling for antitrust lawsuits in order to break up Facebook and other big tech companies.
Facebook — the brainchild of CEO Mark Zuckerberg — has long maintained, for its part, that its purchases of smaller social media subsidiaries has not impeded competitors’ ability to thrive.
“A strongly competitive landscape existed at the time of both acquisitions and exists today,” spokesman Chris Sgro said in a statement in October. “Regulators thoroughly reviewed each deal and rightly did not see any reason to stop them at the time.”
The suit would mark the second big antitrust legal action to rock the U.S. tech sector in just a few short months. In October, the Department of Justice and 11 states filed an antitrust complaint against Google, arguing among other things that its own permanent, preinstalled search app on all Android phones interfered with other search engines’ ability to compete.