Federal Trade Commission Sues To Bust Up Facebook

On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission sued to break up Facebook, the government agency is asking a federal court to force the sale of assets such as Instagram and WhatsApp as independent businesses.

The lawsuit asks the federal court to order the “divestiture of assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp),” as well as other possible relief the court might want to add.

“Facebook has maintained its monopoly position by buying up companies that present competitive threats and by imposing restrictive policies that unjustifiably hinder actual or potential rivals that Facebook does not or cannot acquire,” the commission said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in the nation’s capital.

Attorneys general from forty eight states and territories said they were filing their own lawsuit against Facebook, reflecting the broad and widespread concern about how much power Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have accumulated on the internet.

Even if government lawyers win a judgment against Facebook, it would be up to a federal judge what to do about the company’s dominant position. It’s rare in American history for a big company to be broken up, but it’s happened in the past, the last time being AT&T in 1984.

The FTC, on a 3-2 vote, filed the case after an investigation that stretched more than a year. Commission staffers had been preparing the lawsuit for months and recommended that the FTC vote to bring a case.

“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.”

Upon news of the FTC lawsuit stocks of Facebook dropped 4%.