State and federal antitrust enforcers accused Facebook of illegally hurting competition by buying smaller rivals and engaging in other harmful behavior in a pair of antitrust lawsuits Wednesday.
Why it matters: With Google already facing an antitrust lawsuit from the Justice Department and state attorneys general, the Facebook case is another major test of the government's power to police internet giants.
Details: The Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 state and territorial attorneys general in parallel lawsuits filed in federal court both say Facebook has maintained an illegal monopoly shored up by the 2012 purchase of Instagram and the 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp.
Catch up quick: Past acquisitions that helped turn Facebook into the juggernaut it is today have come under intense scrutiny, and Congressional antitrust leaders grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on them this summer.
- The FTC has been studying past tech mergers to see if they need to be re-evaluated in light of how the industry has evolved, and Chairman Joe Simons has said he wouldn't rule out unwinding past mergers.
What they're saying: Facebook has argued consumers benefitted from those mergers, and that neither Instagram nor WhatsApp would be what it is today without Facebook at the helm.
The big picture: The flurry of antitrust activity in the online sector that began in 2019 is coming to fruition, but the cases will take time to go through court.
- New York AG Letitia James announced the multi-state Facebook antitrust investigation that resulted in Wednesday's suit last year, shortly after Facebook revealed it was facing a separate FTC antitrust investigation.
- Eleven Republican state AGs joined the DOJ's lawsuit against Google in October, while a separate state investigation of the search giant is expected to wrap up soon.
What's next: The Facebook cases will have to wind through court. With Joe Biden taking office next month, the FTC's case will ultimately be seen through by an agency with a different lineup of commissioners and a new chairperson.