In antitrust move, New York Attorney General sues Facebook

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NEW YORK (NEWS10) — Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York, is taking aim at Facebook over what she called anticompetitive, monopolistic conduct. She filed a lawsuit on Wednesday that accuses the company of undermining the competitive spirit of the nation, crushing perceived rivals, and compromising user privacy.

“No company should have this much unchecked power.”

LETITIA JAMES
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK

In a short virtual press conference on Wednesday, James laid out a simple case against Facebook. She said that they illegally acquired competitors—specifically Instagram and WhatsApp—to stifle competition, innovation, and creativity. She quoted one industry executive as saying, “You will face the wrath of Mark” if you step on Facebook’s turf.

Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO, cofounder, and primary shareholder of the social media giant.

James alleges that “Facebook’s efforts to dominate the market were as illegal as they were harmful.” She called out their acquisition of competitors as “predatory,” saying that most consumers are not even aware that WhatsApp and Instagram are Facebook properties. She also described an “open first, close later” policy for apps Facebook viewed as competitors. She said many experienced an overnight drop in their user base after being iced out of the platform.

Facebook has been able to set its own terms for enforcement and data collection of users while accepting billions in advertising, James said. She highlighted several ways that Facebook’s monopoly power causes harm, including:

  • Degrading the quality of user experience
  • Subjecting advertisers to higher prices, less transparency
  • Neutralizing small businesses

“We will not allow any company to think they are too big to fail.”

Letitia James
Attorney General of New York

James says that 47 other Attorneys General representing almost every state are signed on to the lawsuit charging Facebook with illegal practices that maintain its monopoly. “We are taking action today and standing for millions of consumers and small businesses,” she said.

As part of a renewed focus on antitrust enforcement, the suit asks the court to halt anticompetitive conduct and block future similar behavior. According to the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission also filed a separate suit against Facebook on Wednesday. “We look forward to collaborating with them” in litigating their parallel complaints, she said.

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