Facebook Could Be Hit By Federal, State Antitrust Lawsuits

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Federal and state antitrust regulators could file lawsuits against Facebook very soon, Bloomberg reported on Monday (Dec. 7), citing sources.

The social media giant could be accused of stifling rivals by taking advantage of its own powerful position, the sources said, per Bloomberg.

Lawsuits could be filed this week on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a group of state attorneys general led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, according to the sources. The sources further told Bloomberg that on the state level, new lawsuits are being planned against Google and could be filed in the coming weeks.

The Google case will be up to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration to advance. The Facebook case will be handled by the next FTC chairman, unless the present chair Joe Simons, appointed by Trump, stays on with the agency, according to the Bloomberg report.

James said in a Bloomberg TV interview last week that the states and the FTC could end up combining their cases.

Facebook has acquired a minimum of 63 firms since its 2004 start, according to an October House report following an investigation into Facebook and other tech giants, per Bloomberg.

The upcoming lawsuits are expected to target Facebook’s reported antitrust violations. Two of the main complaints were from startup investors, privacy activists and antitrust experts following Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion, and its 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp for $22 billion. Simons has said antitrust enforcers should watch for bigger firms acquiring emerging startups in their same fields.

U.S. regulators are also looking into possible antitrust violations by Facebook in the virtual reality (VR) sector. VR startups have accused Facebook of using its dominant position to keep out companies that offer rival games and services. Further, its 2014 acquisition of Oculus for $2 billion has also made Facebook the world’s biggest virtual reality hardware maker.

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