A document has leaked outlining the legal defence that Facebook intends to use against government antitrust pressures. As reported by the Walls Street Journal, Facebook intends to argue that itself and Instagram have become too integrated and a breakup would defy established law. As a result, any attempt to break them up would be a 'complete non-starter'.
Facebook and other big tech companies have been under intense pressure regarding antitrust issues for some time now. Companies including Facebook, Google and Amazon had to testify in a House antitrust hearing recently.
Recent reports also suggest that the FTC may file an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. This demonstrates just how serious things have become for the social media giant.
Now it looks like Facebook has begun to prepare to fight back. As reported by Engadget, Facebook aims to argue that any government-ordered breakup would be unfeasible as well as illegal.
Leaked document hints at Facebook's antitrust legal defence
Staff from Facebook produced this document based off of commissioned work from its lawyers at Sidley Austin LLP. It generally gives a sense that Facebook would fight any attempt at a breakup both in the courtroom and in the public forum.
When Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 both mergers were examined by the FTC. Both reviews closed without passing any objection.
Since then the companies have now share numerous operations making them heavily integrated. Facebook argues this integration makes it almost impossible to unwind the relationship between the companies.
They argue this would cost an extortionate amount of money. However, the company also points out it would weaken security and harm users' experience.
However, Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor has argued that this point is legally "surprisingly weak". Any government antitrust case will likely focus on Facebook's acquisitions. This would be with the aim of arguing they were to reduce competition.
Wu argues that the FTC reserved the right to revisit the merges at any time. He also noted that one decision on one merger would not be enough to serve as an overarching legal argument.
Wu also argues that “there is no ‘it’s too hard’ defence". This would mean Facebook's argument that a breakup is unfeasible would likely carry little weight.
Clearly, the legal intricacies of this case would be extremely confusing. Whether this case ever sees the light of day is another issue. However, what this document tells us, is that Facebook wants to ready itself against legal challenges and feels a need to mount a defence.