‘Buy-or-bury’: Ashley Moody signs onto antitrust lawsuit against Facebook

Ads for more than 400 brands including Coca-Cola and Starbucks vanished from Facebook on July 1, after talks to avoid a boycott failed.
The lawsuits could force Facebook to divest Instagram and WhatsApp.

Florida’s top cop joined a lawsuit against Facebook on Wednesday, claiming the tech giant rose to power via unlawful, anti-competitive practices.

The 123-page filing, signed onto by Attorney General Ashley Moody, accuses Facebook of employing a “buy-or-bury strategy.” The lawsuit contends that Facebook’s purchasing of smaller, developing competitors such as Instagram and WhatsApp has deprived users of competition and privacy protections.

Moody is joined by a coalition of 47 state Attorneys General.

“The stifling of competition and predatory actions of Facebook are inexcusable, and as a result, its users, innovation and competition have all suffered,” Moody said in a statement. “I am proud to work with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to take action against Facebook for its unlawful, anticompetitive business practices and end the social media giant’s monopoly control.”

The states’ lawsuit mirrors a separate court action filed Wednesday by the Federal Trade Commission.

Notably, both actions call on federal courts to force Facebook to relinquish assets such as Instagram and What’s App and stop any future acquisitions.

“If they refuse to be bought out, Facebook tries to squeeze every bit of oxygen out of the room from these companies,” Moody further contended.

In addition to buying potential competitors, the states’ lawsuit alleges, Facebook employed an “open first-closed later” approach to developers to help grow Facebook’s user base through third-party services.

Facebook’s strategies have resulted in “degraded quality of users’ experiences, less choice in personal social networks, suppressed innovation, and reduced investment in potentially competing services,” the 76-page lawsuit said.

“Facebook’s conduct deprives users of product improvements and, as a result, users have suffered, and continued to suffer, reductions in the quality and variety of privacy options and content available to them,” the complaint alleged

Facebook, meanwhile, has pushed back against the complaints.

In a statement, the company described the lawsuit’s allegations as “revisionist history” and argued that the purchases were made years ago.

“Antitrust laws exist to protect consumers and promote innovation, not to punish successful businesses. Instagram and WhatsApp became the incredible products they are today because Facebook invested billions of dollars, and years of innovation and expertise, to develop new features and better experiences for the millions who enjoy those products,” Facebook Vice President and General Counsel Jennifer Newstead said in a prepared statement.

Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and What’s App, a messaging platform, for $19 billion in 2014.

“The government now wants a do-over, sending a chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final,” Newstead continued.

“People and small businesses don’t choose to use Facebook’s free services and advertising because they have to, they use them because our apps and services deliver the most value. We are going to vigorously defend people’s ability to continue making that choice.”

According to the states’ lawsuit, more than half of the U.S. population over age 13 uses Facebook, which makes money through advertising.

The lawsuit accuses Facebook of harming advertisers in a number of ways, “including less transparency to assess the value they receive from advertisements, and harm to their brand due to offensive content on Facebook services.”

Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have come under fire for how the company handled advertising and misinformation during the 2020 election cycle.

Facebook has more than 2.7 billion active users, making it the most popular social media platform worldwide.

Only Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota did not join the lawsuit, which was filed after a lengthy antitrust investigation that included participation by Moody’s office.


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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