It’s refreshing in this time of national divisions to see near-unanimity among attorneys general in a lawsuit filed this week against Facebook.
Forty-eight AGs, including Maura Healey of Massachusetts, filed the lawsuit alleging Facebook created an illegal monopoly over the years by buying out potential competitors — often at greatly inflated prices.
Instagram? Got it. WhatsApp? Got that, too.
The bipartisan roster of AGs (including those from the District of Columbia and the territory of Guam) filed their antitrust case in federal court in Washington, aiming to force the huge social media company to divest some of its properties. If you have any doubts about how ingrained Facebook is in the lives of Americans, Commonwealth magazine reports that the suit says “on any given day, more than half the U.S. population over age 13 logs into a Facebook-owned service.”
It’s worth noting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hatched the idea for the company while a student at Harvard but soon moved the growing company to California.
But even a media giant like Facebook shouldn’t underestimate the power of so many states banding together in the lawsuit, which was filed with a separate suit brought by the Federal Trade Commission.
“For nearly a decade, Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg ran an illegal monopoly in the social media sphere by buying out companies that showed promise as potential competitors and blocking others — and they did this at the expense of their users’ time and privacy,” Healey said in a statement. “We are suing to stand up for the millions of consumers and small businesses that have been harmed by Facebook’s illegal business practices.”
Facebook’s general counsel Jennifer Newstead denied any wrongdoing by the company, calling the complaints “revisionist history.”
The FTC had approved some of Facebook’s acquisitions years ago, which could be the biggest stumbling block in proving that what Facebook did to expand was in any way illegal.
“The government now wants a do-over, sending a chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final,” Newstead said in a statement reported by Politico.
Whether this lawsuit is just a case of tilting at Facebook’s big windmill, or a major step toward breaking up a powerful monopoly, is yet to be seen. If, and when, there is a resolution, you can bet many people will be reading about it on Facebook.