Congressional Facebook investigation to use failed startup as backdoor for secret documents: report

A congressional committee will try to use a failed startup's lawsuit as a backdoor to internal Facebook documents that were sealed by a California judge, The Associated Press reports.

The House Judiciary Committee requested a trove of Facebook documents that the company's critics say will demonstrate how the social media giant unfairly leveraged its market dominance to crush or absorb competitors. At issue here is a cache of internal Facebook documents unearthed in a case brought by Six4Three, a defunct startup whose founders have waged a bitter four-year legal battle with the social network.

In a nine-page Sept. 13 letter obtained by The Associated Press, the House committee requested all substantive filings from Six4Three's lawsuit. That would include thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents and emails, some authored by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that were ordered sealed by a California judge.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., sits in his chair as Attorney General William Barr does not appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Barr, who informed the Democrat-c (AP)

The committee's request comes amid a flurry of new antitrust investigations of technology giants, including ones by the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general.

Six4Three, however, could offer unique insights into Facebook's behavior, as its documents provide an inside view of executive deliberations and decisions that might be viewed as anticompetitive conduct. Some antitrust investigators have already cited them as potentially important evidence in probes of the company.

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Several hundred pages of the documents became public in late 2018 after British lawmakers ordered Six4Three managing director Ted Kramer to turn over much of the trove while he was visiting the U.K. Others were leaked to British journalist Duncan Campbell and shared with the AP and NBC.

Kramer and his founding investor, Thomas Scaramellino, allege that Facebook deceived and then crushed their startup — and thousands of others — by abruptly shutting down access to user data essential to their businesses.

The AP's report comes days after leaked audio showed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his employees in July that "you go the mat and you fight" if a politician like Sen. Elizabeth Warren tries to break up tech companies.

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FOX Business' inquiry to Facebook was not returned at the time of publication.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.