The FTC denounces Facebook and calls for the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp to be undone.
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that it will sue Facebook for “illegally maintaining a monopoly on social media over several years of anti-competitive conduct”. A complaint that joins that of 48 independent states led by New York and that seeks, among others, to undo purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp.
A monopoly maintained with illegal practices that it is time to undo
The FTC announces the lawsuit and frames and defines it in very harsh terms. According to the agency, Facebook uses its power to eliminate threats to its monopoly. The lawsuit also focuses on how these actions have affected us as users.
“Social media is critical to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Office of Competition. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our goal is to roll back Facebook’s anti-competitive behavior and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can flourish.”
The truth is that, as far as we can know, we see how on a regular basis Facebook, whether in the social network that bears its name or on Instagram, copies functions of other companies on a regular basis. According to the FTC, this is simply the tip of the iceberg and pays special attention to the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, companies that were once competitors and that were neutralized through a purchase.
Recall that, at the time, the case had quite an impact, since Facebook assured that they could not merge WhatsApp and Facebook, something that greatly worried European regulators. Over the years, functions such as sharing the WhatsApp phone number with Facebook and other maneuvers, the European Union has seen, one by one, all its fears fulfilled. Given this and other facts, the FTC wants Facebook to be forced to get rid of Instagram and WhatsApp.
The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things: require the divestment of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp; prohibit Facebook from imposing anti-competitive conditions on software developers; and require Facebook to request advance notice and approval of future mergers and acquisitions.
The FTC also focuses on how, little by little, Facebook has been closing third-party access to its data, something that did not prevent the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The lawsuit highlights how the social network has periodically withdrawn access to APIs and refers especially to the one Vine used to function.
The complaint alleges that Facebook has enforced these policies by cutting off access to the API to mitigate perceived competitive threats from rival social media services, mobile messaging applications, and other applications with social capabilities. For example, in 2013, Twitter launched the Vine app, which allowed users to film and share short video clips. In response, according to the complaint, Facebook closed the API that would have allowed Vine to access its friends through Facebook.
We just have to remember that the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram have left Facebook, leaving the charges that came with the acquisitions. Most of these marches have had occasional controversies, the creator of WhatsApp himself, for example, openly supported the cause #DeleteFacebook.