The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into potentially launching an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook over allegations that the social media giant has stifled competition, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
The suit could be filed by the end of the year, sources told WSJ.
It’s unknown exactly what legal theories FTC would use in a lawsuit if it were to happen, but staffers have been asking about Facebook’s past acquisitions and issues on how the company responds to app developers using its programs.
That said, a lawsuit might not happen at all, WSJ reported. The FTC doesn’t always move forward with antitrust cases that it is investigating, as in the case of the 2013 investigation into Google.
Facebook has consistently pushed back against allegations that it has acted in ways that violate antitrust laws. Although the company has bought up numerous other apps over the years, including Instagram, Facebook has said its decisions have only served to improve experiences for users, including letting them message one another through different Facebook-owned apps.
But if the company ended up losing an antitrust case, the FTC could restrict how the company operates or break off pieces of its business, according to WSJ.
The FTC can’t make that decision unilaterally, though. First it would have to prove both that Facebook violated the law and that the recommended changes were necessary.
The possible scrutiny into Facebook is in line with the overall scope of the investigations at the government level against Big Tech companies. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been moving ahead with a large probe into Facebook and others, with Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen calling it “full-tilt.”
In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cooperated with the FTC as a part of the antitrust investigation, participating in a two-day virtual hearing. It’s unknown what he talked about, but a spokesman said he was “committed” to answering any questions that needed answering.