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Former Instagram Competitor Files Antitrust Lawsuit Against Facebook, Meta

— November 7, 2021

Phhhoto says it was driven out of business by Facebook, before Instagram copied its technology.

Phhhoto, an aspiring photo-sharing platform, has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta, claiming the social media platform feigned interest in collaboration before copying its features and hiding its name from its search results.

According to The Verge, Phhhoto allowed users to capture five frames in a “single point-and-shoot burst,” which could then be looped into a shared video.

These videos, called a “phhhoto,” could then be shared to its own platform or ported to Facebook.

However, Phhhoto claims that Meta stole its idea, re-branding it as “Boomerang,” which has since become a popular Instagram feature.

Instagram is owned by Meta.

Now, Phhhoto says that Facebook’s appropriation of its technology, and subsequently black-listing from search results, has driven the company out of business.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckberberg in 2018. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Anthony Quintano. (CCA-BY-2.0).

“The actions of Facebook and Instagram destroyed Phhhoto as a viable business and ruined the company’s prospects for investment,” Phhhoto wrote in its lawsuit. “Phhhoto failed as a direct result of Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct. But for Facebook’s conduct, Phhhoto was positioned to grow into a social networking giant, similar in size, scope, and shareholder value to other social networking and media companies with which Facebook did not interfere.”

The Verge notes that Phhhoto, active between 2014 and 2017, had some 3.7 million monthly users at its peak.

Phhhoto’s complaint alleges that, in February 2015, Bryan Hurren—then Facebook’s strategic partnerships manager—contacted the company to tell them that he thought this photo-altering features were “really awesome.” Hurren then offered to incorporate Phhhoto’s effects in Facebook Messenger.

While Phhhoto tried to move the project forward, Hurren eventually cited “internal legal conversations” that prevented any further conversations.

However, in March 2015, Instagram changed its settings, making it impossible for Phhhoto users to find their Instagram contacts.

Specifically, Tech Crunch paraphrases the lawsuit as alleging that “Facebook took a number of actions meant to drive it out of business.” This included removing pre-populated Instagram hashtags which identify where content is generated.

Instagram also struck Phhhoto from its social graph, preventing Phhhoto users from using cross-platform communications tools to contact Instagram users from their Phhhoto accounts.

Phhhoto, in its complaint, charges that Hurren told his team that Facebook “was upset that Phhhoto was growing in users through its relationship with Instagram.”

Shortly afterward, Phhhoto’s founders discovered that, not only had their personal and corporate Instagram accounts been suppressed, but that Instagram had constructed its own “slavish clone” of the product.

“This revelation provided the first link between Facebook’s earlier actions toward Phhhoto (here, cutting off API access) as part of an exclusionary scheme with the algorithmic suppression discovered in late 2017,” the lawsuit states.


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