COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced Wednesday that his office has joined dozens of attorneys general across the country as well as the Federal Trade Commission in lawsuits that seek to break up Facebook, which is accused of stifling competition to protect its “monopoly.”
“Facebook’s unchecked power has grabbed an alarming level of control over what we see, say, buy and even who our friends are,” Yost said. “It is a dangerous seduction where we, as consumers, have become the product for Facebook by controlling so many aspects of our lives.”
The lawsuits allege that Facebook illegally acquired competitors in a predatory manner and cut services to smaller threats, depriving users from the benefits of competition and reducing privacy protections along the way. They claim Facebook took these actions to boost its bottom line through increased advertising revenue.
The FTC says it's seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could require divestitures of assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp. It could also prohibit Facebook from imposing anticompetitive conditions on software developers and require the company to seek prior notice and approval for future mergers and acquisitions.
The FTC complaint was filed separately from the coalition of attorneys general, but in coordination with their respective states.
According to Yost, Facebook is accused of violating Section 2 of the Sherman Act, in addition to two violations of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.
Yost says that Facebook uses its vast resources to strangle competition in a “buy or bury” approach, such as what happened when the social media giant purchased WhatsApp and Instagram.
“If rival platforms refuse to be bought out, Facebook tries to squeeze every bit of oxygen out of the room for these companies,” the attorney general’s office said.
Recently, Facebook was named in a 450-page report that was the culmination of a year-long inquiry by the House Antitrust Subcommittee, a bipartisan panel that held several hearings and reviewed more than one million documents.
Among the possible recommendations floated by the subcommittee are a possible breakup of Facebook and a sweeping antitrust reform as well as strict limitations on what markets the company can operate in. Amazon, Google and Apple were also named in the 450-page report as monopolies.
The coalition of AGs, which includes Yost, is asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to halt Facebook’s “illegal, anticompetitive conduct” and block the company from continuing this behavior in the future.
Additionally, the collation is asking the court to restrain Facebook from making further acquisitions valued at $10 million or more without advance notice to the states.
Facebook responded to the lawsuits with the following statement:
"We're reviewing the complaints & will have more to say soon. Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day."
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