Decide rejects Fb’s request to dismiss antitrust grievance

U.S. antitrust officials can continue their case to take down Meta, Facebook’s parent company, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, dealing a blow to the social media giant that had argued the lawsuit should be dismissed over its allegations that Meta illegally abused a monopoly in the social media marketplace – and that its subsidiaries Instagram and WhatsApp should be spun off. District Judge James Boasberg previously dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint last June. At the time, Boasberg said prosecutors at the agency hadn’t done enough to show Facebook had a monopoly on social media. But he left the door open for the FTC to refile their complaint with amendments. Facebook again asked Boasberg to drop the lawsuit, but in Tuesday’s judge’s opinion, the judge said the FTC’s “significant additions and revisions” to its earlier filing had reached the threshold for the case to proceed. The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Meta said she is confident “that the evidence will uncover the underlying weakness of the claims.” The company also noted that Boasberg described the FTC’s upcoming task as a “big task.” The case gives Khan a chance to make her mark in her first term as a federal regulator. Khan played a key role in kickstarting the current wave of antitrust scrutiny of big tech platforms with a 2017 article in the Yale Law Journal that highlighted Amazon’s dominance. Khan also helped lead a 16-month congressional investigation into Big Tech while working for the House Antitrust Subcommittee, an investigation that produced a landmark report in 2020 that found Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta monopoly power enjoy. Meta had urged Boasberg to throw out the FTC lawsuit, arguing that Khan shouldn’t be able to vote to authorize the new complaint, given her previous criticism of big tech companies. Last July, company officials wrote to the FTC demanding Khan’s waiver of all matters related to the social media giant, but that didn’t stop Khan from voting to continue the litigation in August. On Tuesday, Boasberg sided with the FTC on the issue, saying Khan’s vote saw her “acting in a prosecutorial capacity as opposed to a judicial role.” He again rejected one of the US government’s key claims that Facebook had anti-competitive controls over how third parties could access the company’s data. The alleged abuses are too old for the FTC to file a lawsuit now, he said, and the agency is not alleging similar damages are forthcoming Some of the company’s most valuable assets have been spun off. Given the tech giant’s reach into seemingly every corner of our lives, it would mean a shift with monumental consequences for society.

US antitrust officials can continue their case to break up Meta, Facebook’s parent company, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, dealing a blow to the social media giant, which had argued to dismiss the lawsuit.

The decision allows federal prosecutors to prove their claims that Meta illegally abused a monopoly in the social media marketplace — and that its Instagram and WhatsApp subsidiaries should be spun off.

District Judge James Boasberg dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s complaint last June. At the time, Boasberg said prosecutors at the agency hadn’t done enough to show Facebook had a monopoly on social media. But he left the door open for the FTC to refile their complaint with amendments.

In August, the FTC refiled its complaint with the support of its new chair, vocal tech industry critic Lina Khan. Facebook again asked Boasberg to withdraw the lawsuit, but in the judge’s opinion on Tuesday, the judge said the FTC’s “significant additions and revisions” to its earlier filing had reached the threshold for the case to proceed.

The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement, Meta said she was confident “that the evidence underscores the fundamental weakness of the [FTC’s] Claims.” The company also noted that Boasberg described the FTC’s upcoming task as a “big task.”

The case gives Khan a chance to make a name for herself in her first round as a federal regulator. Khan played a key role in kickstarting the current wave of antitrust scrutiny of big tech platforms with a 2017 article in the Yale Law Journal that highlighted Amazon’s dominance. Khan also helped lead a 16-month congressional investigation into Big Tech while working for the House Antitrust Subcommittee, an investigation that produced a landmark report in 2020 that found Amazon, Apple, Google and Meta monopoly power enjoy.

Meta had urged Boasberg to dismiss the FTC lawsuit, saying that Khan should not be able to vote to allow the new complaint given her previous criticism of big tech companies. Last July, company officials wrote to the FTC demanding Khan’s waiver of all matters related to the social media giant, but that didn’t stop Khan from voting to continue the litigation in August. On Tuesday, Boasberg sided with the FTC on the issue, saying that Khan’s vote saw her “in a prosecutorial capacity, not a judicial capacity.”

But as in his decision to dismiss the original FTC lawsuit, Boasberg on Tuesday again dismissed one of the US government’s key allegations: Facebook had anticompetitively controlled how third parties could access the company’s data. The alleged abuses are too old for the FTC to pursue a lawsuit now, he said, and the agency is not alleging similar damages are forthcoming.

Still, the continuation of the litigation signals another unwelcome scrutiny for Meta, which could potentially end in the spin-off of some of the company’s most valuable assets. Given the tech giant’s reach into seemingly every corner of our lives, it would mean a shift with monumental consequences for society.

Comments are closed.