Major antitrust lawsuits against Facebook

The social media joint Facebook is facing two major antitrust lawsuits filed by the US government and 48 states demanding, among other things, that the tech giant divest itself of Instagram and WhatsApp.  In the suits, state and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) officials are seeking an injunction that could force Facebook to divest assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp, and seek prior approval for future deals. Antitrust enforcers from 48 US states and territories also filed a lawsuit against the company related to similar claims that Facebook did not allow fair competition when it sought to buy the two platforms.
Both suits allege that Facebook has become a social media monopoly by illegally suppressing competition when it buys potential rivals. Facebook purchased photo-sharing platform Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and chat service WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014. Now, they are three of the world’s most popular social media and messaging apps. Altogether as a company, Facebook is valued at more than $800 billion.
The issue of Facebook’s grip on the gathering and use of user data from all of its platform is also an issue which has been raised. 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.
However, Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But it emphasized that its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram were approved by the FTC years ago. The lawsuits come at a pivotal time for Big Tech, as the public, regulators, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are scrutinizing these companies and their impacts on society and the economy.
In October this year, the House Antitrust Committee concluded  an investigation by releasing a wide-ranging report that found that Facebook and its fellow tech giants Amazon, Apple, and Google have antitrust practices and need to be better regulated.
There are allegations against Facebook that it has been spending its time surveilling users’ personal information and profiting from it. No company should have this much-unchecked power over our personal information, and our social interactions. A still unresolved question is whether antitrust laws written decades ago are up to the task of regulating companies in the age of the internet?

- Prabhakar Purandare

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