Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is part of the executive team leading a lawsuit against Facebook. Attorneys general from Iowa, 45 other states and the District of Columbia are accusing the social media giant of operating as a monopoly.
“While being on Facebook is free in terms of paying a charge, it’s not totally free,” Miller says. “What they get is this enormous amount of data from us as we participate and that’s incredibly valuable to Facebook.”
The lawsuit alleges Facebook’s purchase of potential rivals like Instagram and WhatsApp deprived users of the benefit of competition.
“It’s of profound importance to everyone in America who uses Facebook or has family or friends who use Facebook,” says Bryce Pashler, an assistant attorney general in Miller’s office who has been working on the lawsuit.
Miller says he’s grown concerned about concentration in many industries and he says Facebook has acquired tremendous power over Americans’ lives through its business behavior.
“In any area where there’s not competition, there tends to be less service,” Miller says, adding the lawsuit addresses privacy concerns.
Pashler says the lawsuit addresses Facebook’s alleged predatory conduct and its harvesting of users data, to pump up its advertising revenues.
“You share the most intimate details of your life with your friends and family,” Pashler says. “That’s the real loss for people and I think that they felt that with Facebook.”
Pashler says the lawsuit also seeks to address how advertising from small businesses are positioned on the platform “to make sure that their conent’s not appearing next to objectionable content and so that they have transparency into the metrics that they can use to know that their advertising actually works.”
The Federal Trade Commission is also suing Facebook on similar grounds. Miller says he and other attorney general have been working with the Trump Administration on this case and the two lawsuits will be consolidated.
Facebook’s legal counsel cites the government’s approval of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp years ago — and argues the lawsuits send “a chilling message” to businesses that no sale is ever final. Facebook has more than 2.5 billion users and is valued at $800 billion.