Facebook hit with massive antitrust lawsuit from 46 states

A huge collection of states filed an antitrust lawsuit Wednesday accusing Facebook of suppressing its competition through monopolistic business practices. Forty-eight attorneys general across 46 states, the territory of Guam and the District of Columbia are behind the lawsuit, with only South Dakota, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia declining to join.

The lawsuit, which looks at Facebook’s actions throughout the company’s history, alleges that the company bought competitors “illegally” and in a “predatory manner” in order to grow and preserve its market power. The suit cites Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp as prominent examples.

The collection of states asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to “restrain Facebook from making further acquisitions valued at or in excess of $10 million” without notifying the plaintiff states in advance. The lawsuit also asks the court for “any additional relief it determines is appropriate, including the divestiture or restructuring of illegally acquired companies, or current Facebook assets or business lines.”

The suit was led by a committee of attorneys general from California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, with New York Attorney General Letitia James spearheading the effort.

“Almost every state in this nation has joined this bipartisan lawsuit because Facebook’s efforts to dominate the market were as illegal as they were harmful,” James said. “Today’s suit should send a clear message to Facebook and every other company that any efforts to stifle competition, reduce innovation, or cut privacy protections will be met with the full force of our offices.”

The state antitrust action against Facebook materialized the same week that the FTC voted to pursue its own antitrust suit against the social media giant. That vote tied a bow on a 20-month investigation into Facebook’s business, including its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram — two formerly independent apps that were folded into the social giant’s business. The FTC is now calling for those companies to be spun out independently.

Facebook has been regularly criticized for its outsized influence and repeatedly called to testify before Congress on related issues, but the coordinated antitrust effort at the federal and state level marks a challenging new chapter for the company.