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Facebook tried and failed multiple times to acquire a mystery competitor that wasn't Twitter or Snapchat, according to the FTC's new lawsuit

Business Insider logo Business Insider 12/10/2020 ijibilian@businessinsider.com (Isabella Jibilian)
Mark Zuckerberg wearing a suit and tie: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington D.C. on Oct. 23, 2019 Andrew Harnik/AP © Andrew Harnik/AP Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington D.C. on Oct. 23, 2019 Andrew Harnik/AP
  • The Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from 46 states, plus DC and Guam, both filed lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday.
  • Both suits allege that Facebook broke anti-trust laws and participated in monopolistic behavior by acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp. 
  • "Facebook has, for many years, continued to engage in a course of anticompetitive conduct with the aim of suppressing, neutralizing, and deterring serious competitive threats to Facebook," the FTC's suit alleged. 
  • In addition, documents from the FTC suit say that Facebook tried to buy an unnamed competitor, besides Twitter and Snapchat, multiple times and failed.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook attempted to acquire an unnamed competitor multiple times and failed, according to a new Federal Trade Commission lawsuit filed Wednesday

"Facebook has tried and failed to buy other companies that have drawn its competitive attention, including Twitter and Snapchat," documents from the suit said. "Similarly, Facebook has made multiple overtures to acquire [redacted] over the years," it reads, with the rest of the sentence is redacted.

The name of the company in question was blacked-out from the filings, leaving commentators to wonder which platform was the subject of Facebook's acquisition attempts. Shira Ovide, a technology reporter for The New York Times, first highlighted the news in a Twitter post on Wednesday

text: An excerpt from the Federal Trade Commission's suit against Facebook, filed Wednesday. The Federal Trade Commission © The Federal Trade Commission An excerpt from the Federal Trade Commission's suit against Facebook, filed Wednesday. The Federal Trade Commission

Commentators took to Twitter Thursday to guess the company in question. Some said TikTok, others guessed Spotify, VSCO, Nextdoor, LinkedIn and Reddit.


Video: FTC, 48 states sue Facebook for antitrust over Instagram and WhatsApp (USA TODAY)

FTC, 48 states sue Facebook for antitrust over Instagram and WhatsApp
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Besides Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Twitter, the other most popular social-networking apps in the US, by monthly users, include: Pinterest, Reddit, Google Messenger, Tumblr, Discord, Google Hangouts, GroupMe, Kik, and Tik Tok, according to a 2019 survey published by Statista.

The FTC's case against Facebook, as well as another suit filed the same day by 48 attorney generals across the nation, allege that Facebook violates antitrust law and chooses to acquire or neutralize rival companies rather than competing with them. Both suits recommend breaking up Facebook and spinning off Instagram and WhatsApp.

Federal regulators approved Facebook's decision to buy Instagram in 2012 and messaging service WhatsApp in 2014. But starting in September of 2019, attorneys general, and later the FTC, began to take a second, hard look at the move, Business Insider previously reported

Read more: Mark Zuckerberg threatened not to invest in the UK over its 'anti-tech' attitude during a secret government meeting

On Wednesday, Facebook called the suits "revisionist history" and released a statement saying, "We face competition in every aspect of our business. That was true before the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp and remains true today."

"Now, many years later, with seemingly no regard for settled law or the consequences to innovation and investment, the agency is saying it got it wrong and wants a do-over," Facebook wrote in a statement. "This is simply not how the antitrust laws are supposed to work."

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Business Insider on the unnamed acquisition target.

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