US antitrust officials are nearing a final decision on bringing a lawsuit against Facebook Inc that would accuse the company of using its dominance in social media to harm competition, a person familiar with the matter said.
US Federal Trade Commission officials support bringing a case, which could be filed in the coming weeks, the person said.
A final decision on suing the company rests with the five-member commission. The commission met on Thursday to discuss the case, said the person, who declined to be named because the investigation is confidential.
The commission has been investigating whether Facebook breached antitrust laws for more than a year, including whether its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were designed to eliminate emerging competitive threats.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by commission officials in August as part of the investigation.
A nationwide group of US state attorneys general, led by New York, are also investigating the company.
One option for the commission is to bring a lawsuit in its in-house administrative court rather than suing in federal court.
Spokespeople for the commission and the New York attorney general’s office declined to comment. The Washington Post reported earlier on the commission meeting.
To critics, the Instagram and Whatsapp takeovers allowed Facebook to acquire two smaller firms that could have emerged as real competitors to the company.
Although the commission investigated and approved both deals, it has the authority to revisit past transactions and go to court to unwind them if it determines they were anticompetitive.
A US House of Representatives report this month found that Facebook has monopoly power that it has used to thwart competition, including by acquiring “its competitive threats to maintain and expand its dominance.”
“The company used its data advantage to create superior market intelligence to identify nascent competitive threats and then acquire, copy or kill these firms,” the report said. “Once dominant, Facebook selectively enforced its platform policies based on whether it perceived other companies as competitive threats. In doing so, it advantaged its own services while weakening other firms.”
At a hearing in July, Zuckerberg said that Instagram had succeeded because of investments Facebook made after the 2012 acquisition, and that it was far from certain that the site would become as big as it is today.
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