The FTC Wants Zuck to Get Rid of IG & WhatsApp

Following a lengthy investigation in cooperation with a coalition of attorneys general of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, the complaint alleges that Facebook has engaged in a systematic strategy—including its 2012 acquisition of up-and-coming rival Instagram, its 2014 acquisition of the mobile messaging app WhatsApp, and the imposition of anticompetitive conditions on software developers—to eliminate threats to its monopoly.FTC

In suing Facebook this past week, the Federal Trade Commission referenced a “years long course of anticompetitive conduct.” The FTC wants the social network to divest Instagram and WhatsApp, two acquisitions that the commission consented on years ago. Facebook dubbed the effort “revisionist history” and said that it would send a “chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final.”

Although the FTC issued a statement in February that it was investigating past acquisitions by Google [$GOOG] parent Alphabet [$GOOGL], Amazon [$AMZN], Apple [$AAPL], Facebook [$FB], and Microsoft [$MSFT], the companies have continued to pen substantial deals. [Scoot Over Amazon, Walmart+ is Here]

“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

This past summer, Microsoft got the green light from the Trump administration to acquire TikTok, a deal that it ultimately fizzled out. This year, while under regulatory heat, Facebook has made seven acquisitions. In May, Facebook acquired Giphy, a collection of images and animations meant to enhance Instagram, for a reported $400 million. In November, the tech giant reported it was buying Kustomer, manufacturer of customer-service software, for $1 billion– the same price Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012. [TikTok Just Won’t Stop]

The S&P hit its 30th high for the year while the dollar continued to decline, as investors looked beyond the U.S. for a vaccine-driven global recovery. Tesla [$TSLA] announced it would sell $5 billion new shares, the second time since September, and the shares sold off. For the week, the Dow industrials fell 0.6%, to 30,046.37; the S&P 500 lost 1% to 3663.46; and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.7%, to 12,377.87.

The complaint alleges that Facebook executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, quickly recognized that Instagram was a vibrant and innovative personal social network and an existential threat to Facebook’s monopoly power.

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