New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and his counterparts from 47 other states launched a massive anti-trust suit against Facebook Wednesday, seeking to split Instagram and WhatsApp off from the social media giant.
The federal suit alleges Facebook sought to maintain a monopoly on personal social networking platforms by buying up or blocking their access to Facebook data, effectively killing competitors.
“Social networking companies like Facebook exert incredible influence and power over how we experience the world today,” Grewal said. “Meanwhile, they monetize our data and sell targeted ads based on our personal information and usage patterns. But big tech companies that acquire and exert their power and influence over our behavior through unlawful means and in illegal ways must be held to account.”
The mammoth 123-page three-count complaint charges the social media giant violated the Sherman Act by holding a monopoly on personal social networks. The other two counts charge it ran afoul of the Clayton act by illegally purchasing Instagram and WhatsApp.
It asks the court to declare those purchases illegal and immediately to block Facebook from making acquisitions worth more than $10 million.
“We are showing that no company is too big or too powerful to avoid scrutiny,” Grewal said.
The suit comes at the same time as another from the Federal Trade Commission. That complaint seeks to force Facebook to divest from Instagram and WhatsApp.
The states claim Facebook’s stranglehold on the social media industry harmed consumers because it allowed the firm to increase the number of ads appearing on its pages and drawing an increasing number of users’ personal information.
It also points to the platform’s lackluster record on policing disinformation campaigns and hate speech groups operating on Facebook.
Gov. Phil Murphy declined to comment on the suit when asked about it during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, though the complaint was announced later in the day.