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US antitrust charges are ‘all-or-nothing’ attempt to break up Facebook


Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told his staff last October he would “go to the mat and fight” if the US tried to break up his empire. Now the wrestling match has begun.


On Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission, and a group of 48 US attorneys-general, hit Facebook with its first antitrust charges on home soil.


Citing scores of internal emails, the two lawsuits allege that Facebook has defended its social media monopoly for years with a “buy or bury” approach to its rivals, such as Instagram and WhatsApp.


If the FTC and the state attorneys-general can convince the courts that Facebook’s allegedly anti-competitive behaviour has damaged the market, the default solution is nothing short of the dismantling of the company.


“We currently expect that [the remedy] will include divestiture of Instagram and WhatsApp,” the FTC said on Wednesday.


William Kovacic, a former FTC chairman and a current law professor at George Washington University said: “The FTC is all-in on the pursuit of the break-up. I think it is fully committed.”


Joel Mitnick, a partner specialising in antitrust at law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, said: “They are saying to the court that anything short of a really dramatic restructure is not going to cure the anti-competitive effects here. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing roll of the dice.”


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