Andrew Hamilton, a lawyer with a background in computer science, is spearheading a class-action lawsuit accusing the social media and search giants Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for cartel-like behavior intended to kill off the burgeoning cryptocurrency sector.
The suit, which has already amassed more than $600 million in claims, accuses the firms of acting as a cartel in launching a coordinated attack designed to crush competition emerging from the nascent virtual currency sector in 2018 — when the social platforms enacted sweeping bans against the promotion of crypto assets and initial coin offerings.
After two-and-a-half years of preparation, Hamilton told Cointelegraph that he is ready to file proceedings within the 48 hours, highlighting that signups from claimants are set to close on Aug. 21.
Hamilton believes that the total value of claims against the firms could grow to as much as $300 billion.
Hamilton is the CEO of JPB Liberty — the legal firm that plans to bring the no-win-no-fee suit to court in Hamilton’s home country of Australia.
Speaking to Cointelegraph, Hamilton recounted immediately recognizing the crypto ad ban as anti-competitive when it was enacted, drawing from his background in competition law.
After conducting extensive research into Australian competition law, Hamilton determined that the social media giants were acting as a cartel and it would be “pretty easy to prove it.”
Hamilton wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and decided to start his own litigation funding company to back the case after the watchdog did not respond to his concerns.
In addition to Hamilton volunteering his labor, the suit has seen “a major law firm” contribute “hundreds of hours off the clock" — with Hamilton emphasizing that “lawyers don’t work for free very much unless they really believe in something.”
Hamilton asserts that the wide-reaching crypto ad ban “completely killed off the [initial coin offering] ICO market.”
The lawyer described ICOs as offering “a new way for startup companies in the tech space to raise money” that bypasses the cumbersome regulated fundraising processes associated with the tech industry.
“This is a very big threat to Facebook and Google strategically, because, instead of having startups that have to fundraise all the way through and end up getting bought by Facebook or Google or someone before they become a competitive threat, [...] ICOs front-loaded the investment,” he said.
"Basically, people could raise all the money they were ever going to need to bring their product to fruition. [...] It actually meant that people could focus on development and improving technology, [...] rather than spending all their time fundraising,” Hamilton added.
Hamilton asserts that the impacts of the crypto ad ban were far-reaching, recounting that numerous claimants were left unable to secure investment after losing their ability to advertise on the internet’s largest platforms.
In light of Facebook’s Libra stablecoin project, Hamilton describes the firm’s strategy of “banning all of its competitors” from advertising on its platform “while secretly working on its own cryptocurrency” as “absolute hypocrisy” in clear violation of competition law.
Similarly, Hamilton highlights Twitter’s move to ban advertising from crypto firms while allowing Jack Dorsey’s financial firm Square to promote its crypto-friendly Cash App on the platform.
“This was an appalling attack on competitors. [...] At the same time as Twitter was banning crypto ads, Jack Dorsey’s Square’s Cash App was launching into crypto and became the number one app. They crushed their competitors and then provided little exceptions to the ad ban for their mates.”
Further, search engine optimization and online marketing professionals targeting the crypto niche found their accounts suspended — with Hamilton sharing the story of one SEO specialist whose Google Adwords account is still subject to a lifetime ban due to his work promoting crypto-focused clients at the time.
“Anyone who was in the Web 3.0 space and competing with Facebook and Google were crushed by this,” added Hamilton.
JPB Liberty is currently seeking funding from institutional litigation funders. If successful claimants will receive 70% of any future settlement, while 30% will go to the suit’s funders.