State And Federal Officials Are Preparing To Bring Antitrust Charges Against Facebook Over WhatsApp and Instagram Acquisitions

Facebook is set to face another legal challenge. The Washington Post has reported a group of state attorneys general is preparing to file antitrust charges against Facebook over the company’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram. New York Attorney General Letitia James leads the group of state attorneys. According to the report, antirust charges will be filed against the social media giant in early December. This latest move comes as the United States Federal Trade Commission is also finalizing its antitrust probe into Facebook.

This legal challenge will allege that the acquisition of rival social media apps by Facebook helped it to create an anti-competitive social networking juggernaut. It is worth mentioning that this is not the first such concerns have been raised. Back in July of this year, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, faced a House Judiciary Committee hearing. This House Judiciary Committee hearing sought to establish whether significant tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook have created an anti-competitive environment.

Facebook CEO was particularly questioned about the company’s acquisition of Instagram. Documents suggest that the company intended to ‘neutralize’ a rival. House Judiciary Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline stated after that hearing that these companies have monopoly power. Over 40 attorneys general have joined the probe into the social media giant, and the investigation focuses on Facebook’s dominance and potential anti-competitive conduct.

Some people say that a big part of the company’s push to integrate its messaging platforms into one back-end platform has been motivated by self-defense. By merging all the functionality of Facebook’s various applications into one framework, the social media giant could justifiably argue that the framework cannot be broken up. For instance, Instagram Direct will not work if we separate it from the chain. In Jan 2019, Facebook announced its initial plans to integrate its messaging platforms to simplify cross-communication. And now, the company could argue that irreversible work has been done to integrate these messaging applications. We can expect Facebook to feel the heat over its market dominance.

It is worth noting that Facebook is hiring more and more lobbyists in Washington. According to reports, the company spent nearly $16.7 million on political lobbying last year. And in 2018, it spent $12.6 million. Moreover, Facebook spent $4.8 million on lobbying during the second quarter of this year. Former President Obama also recently noted that he thinks more action should be taken to limit the spread of misleading information on social media. With his former VP set to take over as the US President, that could well indicate a more extensive push against the company.

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