Facebook’s purchases of WhatsApp, Instagram target of likely antitrust case: report

FTC also considering filing antitrust lawsuit against Facebook

Facebook's 2012 and 2014 purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp are likely to be the target of state and federal antitrust lawsuits, according to The Washington Post.

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The lawsuits will likely accuse Facebook of buying out its competitors and leaving consumers with fewer social media alternatives and could put strong regulatory pressure on the nearly $775 billion company, three people familiar with the matter told the Post.

State and federal lawmakers could also accuse the company of using its already huge supply of user data as a resource to beat competitor apps, the Post reported, citing those familiar with the matter.

Facebook did not immediately respond to an inquiry from FOX Business regarding the potential lawsuits.

Apple iPhone XR showing Instagram application on mobile (iStock)

The allegations are not new. Lawmakers have repeatedly brought up Facebook's purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp during recent congressional hearings, including Tuesday's censorship hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Tuesday focused her questioning on Facebook's purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp. She also mentioned Facebook's decision to cut off the ability of Vine, a former video-sharing app like TikTok, to operate on Facebook after Twitter purchased the app in 2012 eventually shut down its service in 2016.

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Klobuchar also brought up emails Zuckerberg sent before Facebook's purchase of Instagram naming the photo-sharing app as a competitor.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen testifying remotely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool)

"At the time, I don't think we or anyone else viewed Instagram as a competitor -- as a large, multi-purpose social platform," Zuckerberg responded. "In fact, at the time, people at the time kind of mocked our acquisition because they thought that we dramatically spent more than we should have on something that was ... primarily a photo and camera-sharing app."

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Klobuchar said that because of Facebook's purchase of the app, nobody knows "how it would have done" otherwise. The Minnesota senator said she communicated her thoughts to Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., prior to the hearing and suggested the Senate make changes to some U.S. laws to prevent anticompetitive behavior.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) previously approved Facebook's purchases of WhatsApp and Instagram, but the commission has apparently questioned those decisions and is considering filing its own antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant, as The Wall Street Journal reported in September.

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