The US wants Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has been accused by the United States’ Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states of illegally buying up its rivals to squash competition.

Lawsuits, filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, want the social media giant to break off Instagram and WhatsApp and for new restrictions on future deals.

The company has been under investigation for more than 18 months by federal and state regulators. In separate lawsuits, they claim that Facebook’s purchases, especially Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for $19 billion two years later, eliminated competition that could have one day challenged the company’s dominance.

Since those deals, Instagram and WhatsApp have skyrocketed in popularity, giving Facebook control over three of the world’s most popular social media and messaging apps.

If the prosecutors succeed, the cases could remake the company, which has experienced only unfettered growth. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has described a breakup of the company as an “existential” threat.