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States, FTC say Facebook is a monopoly

New York’s Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Facebook for what her office says is the social media giant’s effort to illegally stifle competition.

New York is joined in the suit by 46 other state attorneys general and the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Guam. Separately, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the social media giant on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Georgia, South Dakota, Alabama and South Carolina did not join the case.

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said James in a press release. “Almost every state in this nation has joined this bipartisan lawsuit because Facebook’s efforts to dominate the market were as illegal as they were harmful. Today’s suit should send a clear message to Facebook and every other company that any efforts to stifle competition, reduce innovation, or cut privacy protections will be met with the full force of our offices.”

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, has stated that he wanted to “build a competitive moat” around the company by acquiring smaller rivals and cutting off integration to third party developers it views as threats.

The coalition of states is asking the courts to block what the press release describes as Facebook’s “anticompetitive conduct;” keep the company from paying $10 million or more for acquisitions without advanced notice to the states involved in the suit; and, if the court thinks it’s suitable, ask Facebook to restructure “illegally acquired companies” like WhatsApp and Instagram.

The lawsuit focuses on Facebook’s purchases of Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and WhatsApp in 2014 for nearly $19 billion.

The suit alleges that Facebook’s monopolizing of the social media market gives users little control over how their private information is collected and disseminated.

“The company is now able to make decisions about how to curate content on the platform and use the personal information it collects from users to further its business interests, even if those choices conflict with the interests and preferences of Facebook users,” said the press release.

Zuckerberg has previously indicated that he would launch a “legal challenge” against efforts to break up Facebook.

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