Antitrust: The FTC does not let go of Facebook

While several antitrust lawsuits have been opened for Facebook’s anti-competitive practices, the FTC is adding another layer: we must not back down.

The Federal Trade Commission released a 56-page report to support its upcoming lawsuit against Facebook.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday urged a judge to dismiss Facebook’s request to drop charges in a potentially historic lawsuit.

In Washington, the FTC is suing Facebook for numerous violations of the country’s antitrust rules. The equivalent of the DGCCRF attached a 56-page document to its request, in order to support its arguments.

Facebook’s takeover of WhatsApp mentioned

After a unique hearing in the world, during which the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google had to respond to an antitrust commission, the noose tightened around two players: Facebook and Google.

The end of the year was marked by the announcement of proceedings against these two advertising giants for multiple violations of antitrust rules. The FTC even ended up joining a complaint from several states in the United States, proof that the matter is not taken lightly.

However, Facebook has refuted some accusations, involving the WhatsApp and Instagram buyouts, asking for the lawsuit to be quashed.

Facebook’s messaging app, Facebook Messenger, launched in 2011, but it was already too far behind WhatsApp to prevent WhatsApp from gaining momentum. In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $ 19 billion. The acquisition neutralized WhatsApp as an emerging threat and thus deprived, and continues to deprive, users of the competitive advantages of an independent WhatsApp.

During antitrust hearings, the same observation was made on the acquisition of Instagram. The only difference was that the app was no more important than another Facebook service. But Mark Zuckerberg made a mistake that could cost him dearly.

He hinted that Instagram’s takeover was because the app was seen as a threat. “ (…) Rather than competing with it, Facebook bought it. It is exactly to prevent this type of anticompetitive acquisition that antitrust laws were designed, ”Jerry Nadler said at the time.

The FTC also points to access to Facebook’s APIs, whose conditions imposed by the company would have limited the development of certain applications. These same APIs have allowed some, malicious, to retrieve the data of millions of Internet users, giving rise to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. A point that the FTC seems to forget.

Between 2011 and 2018, Facebook made the Facebook Platform available to developers on the sole condition that their applications did not compete with Facebook or promote its competitors. Facebook punished apps that violated these terms by terminating their access to the Find Friends API and other APIs.

Finally, the FTC synthesizes its argument with a strong message.

Facebook is one of the largest and most profitable companies in the history of the world. Facebook is reaping massive profits through its [social media] monopoly, not by offering a superior or more innovative product, as it has, for nearly a decade, taken anti-competitive measures to neutralize, hinder or deter potential competitors.

The approach seems clear: we must not let go. The consequences of the various trials could be critical for Facebook. Indeed, it will be a question of separation of Instagram, and probably WhatsApp, from the rest of the group.

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