On a quest to show the FTC that it isn’t a monopoly, Meta flooded a wide swath of major tech companies with subpoenas last month. But the company is apparently demanding documents from much smaller “rivals” too.
Photo-sharing app Dispo received its own subpoena from the company on March 23. In the subpoena, Meta makes 36 separate requests for Dispo’s internal documents, including user metrics on “an hourly and daily basis,” any documentation about who the small company views as its own competition and “all documents sufficient to identify your assessment of the primary reasons why your users use each of your products.” Some, like a request for any user privacy complaints, are even further afield.
In a letter to Meta’s counsel early this month, Dispo pushed back, asking the company to withdraw the subpoena. The company argues that many of the demands Meta is making don’t even apply to Dispo, like asking for documentation of its acquisitions, and the requests that do are still “unduly burdensome, overbroad, vexatious and harassing.”
“We have 25 employees and no lawyers on staff,” Dispo co-founder and CEO Daniel Liss said in an email to TechCrunch. “Demanding our most sensitive trade secrets is extraneous to the legal question being debated.”
Liss, a vocal Meta critic who has authored a series here at TechCrunch analyzing the antitrust case against the company, argues that Dispo was targeted intentionally to bury the small company in paperwork. “With under 30 employees, under $25 millionraised, and under 6 million downloads, Dispo is not a competitor,” Liss said, calling Meta’s subpoena “harassing and intimidating.”
Dispo, a photo-sharing app co-founded by YouTube star David Dobrik, first took off in early 2021. Like many hot new photo apps, it was quickly hailed as the next Instagram, climbing the charts and drumming up investor buzz while still in beta. But a month later the company was embroiled in controversy when disturbing sexual assault allegations emerged against a member of Dobrik’s inner circle. As many of Dobrik’s content sponsors backed away, Dispo’s investors did too, and the YouTube celebrity left the company in March.
Dispo is just one of at least 90 non-party subpoenas Meta has sent out related to the FTC’s antitrust case, and it’s the smallest company known to receive one so far. On March 22, Snap, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Match Group, Reddit, Twitter and Oracle asked a judge to limit the scope of Meta’s requests to their respective companies and to bar Meta’s in-house legal team from poring over sensitive documents that could further give it a competitive edge.
“Meta is casting an extraordinarily wide net for extremely sensitive materials from non-parties,” the coalition of tech companies wrote. The group argued that Meta’s sweeping requests would require them to produce millions of documents — a heavy lift, even for a company with a dedicated legal team.
“In addition to being highly burdensome, the subpoenas are also highly invasive. The types of information called for — including the Non-Parties’ pricing, user-acquisition, and competitive strategies — are among the most competitively sensitive documents that Non-Parties possess.”