Washington, DC–Today, the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint against Facebook in the agency’s ongoing federal antitrust case. The complaint alleges that after repeated failed attempts to develop innovative mobile features for its network, Facebook instead resorted to an illegal buy-or-bury scheme to maintain its dominance. It unlawfully acquired innovative competitors with popular mobile features that succeeded where Facebook’s own offerings fell flat or fell apart. And to further moat its monopoly, Facebook lured app developers to the platform, surveilled them for signs of success, and then buried them when they became competitive threats. Lacking serious competition, Facebook has been able to hone a surveillance-based advertising model and impose ever-increasing burdens on its users.
As described in the amended complaint, after starting Facebook Platform as an open space for third party software developers, Facebook abruptly reversed course and required developers to agree to conditions that prevented successful apps from emerging as competitive threats to Facebook. By pulling this bait and switch on developers, Facebook insulated itself from competition during a critical period of technological change. Developers that had relied on Facebook’s open-access policies were crushed by new limits on their ability to interoperate. Facebook’s conduct not only harmed developers such as Circle and Path, but also deprived consumers of promising and disruptive mavericks that could have forced Facebook to improve its own products and services.