Facebook's long-term value is under threat, experts said Thursday after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission took a step toward the possible breakup of Facebook Inc. by filing an antitrust lawsuit against the company and accusing it of abusing its monopoly in social networking to stifle competition.
Because much of the company's revenue growth is already coming from Instagram and WhatsApp, these affiliates are central to Facebook's bet on digital commerce, the experts said. Losing the two companies would threaten much of its value.
The federal government and dozens of U.S. states filed antitrust lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday. One of the suits is aiming to force Facebook to divest some of its assets to reduce its market influence.
The suit filed by the commission is seeking a permanent injunction to break up the company. This includes the divestment of WhatsApp and Instagram.
"Facebook's actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook's anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive," commission director of competition Ian Conner said.
The commission wants to reverse Facebook's acquisition and control over WhatsApp and Instagram. Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014.
The lawsuits are the culmination of a 14-month investigation led by New York Attorney General Letitia James into Facebook's alleged anticompetitive practices. James was later joined by 40 other attorneys general, who have all signed onto the complaint.
James said that it was time to end Facebook's use of its dominance to "crush its smaller rivals and snuff out competition." James added that they have found enough evidence to prove Facebook had used its money and influence to hinder companies perceived to be potential threats.
The suits are calling for a court order that will require Facebook and other companies to submit notifications to the government for any future acquisitions valued at more than $10 million.
Facebook's general counsel Jennifer Newstead said regulators had previously cleared all of its acquisitions. She said the government's effort to force a "do-over" doesn't give out a positive message to American businesses.