Federal Trade Commission Refiles Facebook Antitrust Lawsuit

August 19, 2021

The Federal Trade Commission has refiled its antitrust complaint against Facebook after a federal court dismissed its original complaint in June. In the new complaint, the FTC alleges that Facebook used illegal anticompetitive methods to thwart competition and maintain a monopoly, including by buying competitors like Instagram and WhatsApp. The complaint details how Facebook’s practices enabled the social media giant to maintain its dominance at the expense of competition and consumers. For example, before Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp, the messaging platform “embraced privacy-focused offerings and design, including the principle ‘of knowing as little about you as possible’ and an ads-free subscription model” which provided “an important form of product differentiation for WhatsApp as an independent competitive threat in personal social networking.” The FTC also highlights the importance of meaningful competition, without which “Facebook has been able to provide lower levels of service quality on privacy and data protection than it would have to provide in a competitive market.” This complaint is the highest profile challenge that the Commission has brought against any tech company in decades. EPIC has long urged the FTC to block or unwind Facebook's acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. In 2014, EPIC and the Center for Digital Democracy warned the FTC that Facebook incorporates user data from companies it acquires, and that WhatsApp users objected to the acquisition. Despite these problems, the FTC allowed the merger to go forward.

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