December 10, 2020

It’s Time to Trust-Bust Facebook

The FTC and 46 states file lawsuits alleging years of anticompetitive practices.

The Federal Trade Commission hit Facebook with an antitrust lawsuit filed in federal court on Wednesday. The FTC charges the social media giant with “illegally maintaining its personal social media networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.” Simultaneous with the FTC’s lawsuit, 48 states and territories are likewise filing suit. “If successful,” National Review reports, this “could lead to the first court-ordered breakup of a U.S. corporation in a decade.” And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of anticompetitive socialist censors.

The FTC’s main allegation is that Facebook has engaged for years in competition-suppressing practices via “anticompetitive acquisitions” that “targeted potential competitive threats to its dominance.” In short, Facebook bought the competition. Moreover, the FTC alleges “anticompetitive platform conduct” in which “Facebook, over many years, has imposed anticompetitive conditions on third-party software developers’ access to valuable interconnections to its platform.”

The lawsuit states, “Since toppling early rival Myspace and achieving monopoly power, Facebook has turned to playing defense through anticompetitive means. … After identifying two signifiant competitive threats to its dominant position — Instagram and WhatsApp — Facebook moved to squelch those threats by buying the companies, reflecting CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s view, expressed in a 2008 email, that ‘it is better to buy than compete.’”

While the antitrust lawsuits don’t address conservatives’ primary contention with Facebook — the tech giant’s regular, glaring, and unfair censoring of (conservative) speech — the practical result of breaking up Facebook would go a long way toward reining in its totalitarian speech control.

Even liberals like Sally Hubbard, director of enforcement strategy at the Open Markets Institute, recognize that the main problem with Facebook is its suppression of free speech. “Facebook’s role as a gatekeeper of speech has had devastating impact on the marketplace of ideas, and the public sphere of debate, and our elections,” she contended. “The platform’s monopolistic control of information flow allows Facebook to pick the winners and losers of speech based on what maximizes its profits — and the winner is disinformation.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, in announcing that her state is joining the lawsuit, noted the widespread bipartisan nature of the legal challenge. She observed that Facebook’s “efforts to stifle competition, reduce innovation, or cut privacy protections will be met with the full force of almost every attorney general’s office in the nation.”

Meanwhile, Facebook obtusely responded that “anti-trust laws exist to protect consumers and promote innovation, not to punish successful businesses.” How, exactly, underhandedly acquiring users’ personal information and then using it to sell targeted access to businesses and other groups is “protecting consumers” is beyond us. Never mind that Facebook is oppressively squelching its users’ ability to share or even view content freely via a cadre of leftist “fact-checkers” monitoring “acceptable” speech.

Facebook needs to be broken up and treated like a public utility. Its abusive practices need to be addressed and ended.

Correction: The lawsuits filed by the FTC and the states are separate, albeit in the same vein. That has been amended.

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