US federal regulators and more than 45 state prosecutors have sued Facebook, accusing the social media company of taking illegal actions to buy up rivals and stifle competition.
The lawsuits are one of the most significant legal actions the US government has taken against the firm.
Officials are asking the court to consider breaking up the company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp.
Facebook said the deals under scrutiny were approved by regulators years ago.
“The government now wants a do-over, sending a chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final,” Facebook general counsel Jennifer Newstead said.
She said the company had invested millions to make Instagram and WhatsApp successful and would defend itself “vigorously”.
“Antitrust laws exist to protect consumers and promote innovation, not to punish successful businesses,” Facebook said, describing the government’s arguments as “revisionist history”.
The lawsuits filed by the states and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) focus on Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram, 2014 purchase of WhatsApp, and rules governing outside software developers.
Officials accused Facebook of taking a “buy or bury” approach to potential rivals, hurting competitors and users, who have lost control of their own data to support the firm’s advertising revenue.
The legal filings cite internal messages from Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, such as one 2008 email that said it was “better to buy than compete”.
THIS IS A BIG, BIG DEAL
More than 40 states and the Federal Trade Commission filed parallel lawsuits that accuse Facebook — a company valued at around $800 billion — of being an illegal monopoly.
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion, and WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014. The lawsuits say those acquisitions were aimed at quashing potential rivals and cementing Facebook’s dominance.
“By using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company perceived to be potential threats,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said Wednesday.
* The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things, require Facebook to divest assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp, effectively breaking up Facebook as we know it
* The lawsuits, filed after more than a year-long investigation, are an unprecedented challenge to one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful corporations.
* Facebook said it was reviewing the complaints and “will have more to say soon.” The company pointed out that the FTC cleared the Instagram and WhatsApp deals and 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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