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Feds, States Sue to Break Up Facebook

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., October 23, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The Federal Trade Commission and 48 state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook on Wednesday, which, if successful, could lead to the first court-ordered breakup of a U.S. corporation in a decade.

The lawsuit claims that Facebook has engaged in anticompetitive practices and attempted to stymie or gain control over rivals to monopolize its social media network. In particular, the suit seeks to end Facebook’s control over WhatsApp and Instagram.

“Facebook recognizes that its continued ownership and operation of Instagram and WhatsApp…neutralizes their direct competitive threats,” the FTC lawsuit states. “Facebook continues to monitor the industry for competitive threats, and likely would seek to acquire any companies that constitute, or could be repositioned to constitute, threats to its personal social networking monopoly.”

The FTC is seeking “divestiture of [Facebook] assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp), and such other relief sufficient to restore the competition that would exist absent the conduct alleged in the Complaint.”

New York attorney general Letitia James announced on Wednesday that she would be leading a group of 48 state attorneys general in a separate lawsuit against Facebook, writing on Twitter that the company held an “illegal monopoly.”

“Facebook has used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users. Instead of improving its own product, Facebook took advantage of consumers and made billions of dollars converting their personal data into a cash cow,” James wrote. “Efforts to stifle competition, reduce innovation, or cut privacy protections will be met with the full force of almost every attorney general’s office in the nation.”

The lawsuits come after the Justice Department filed an antitrust suit against search engine Google in October.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.