Facebook Told to Divest Instagram and WhatsApp in FTC Lawsuit

Social media company under fire for monopoly power, also sued by states under antitrust lawsuit

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Facebook was demanded by the Federal Trade Commission to divest Instagram and WhatsApp as part of one of two antitrust lawsuits against the social media giant on Wednesday.

“The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things: require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp; prohibit Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers; and require Facebook to seek prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions,” the FTC said.

Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014.

In its lawsuit, the FTC accuses Facebook of “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.”

“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

The social media company was also hit with a separate antitrust lawsuit from multiple state Attorneys General, led by New York AG Letitia James.

In a press conference Wednesday, James said that Facebook “for nearly a decade has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals.” She continued: “By using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company has perceived as potential threats.” James added that Facebook has “reduced choice for consumers” and “degraded privacy protections for Americans.”

She concluded: “No company should have such unchecked power.”

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