Bipartisan antitrust leaders urge FTC to pursue Facebook case

Bipartisan antitrust leaders urge FTC to pursue Facebook case
© Greg Nash

Congressional leaders on antitrust are urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to pursue its monopolization case against Facebook.

In a letter Friday, Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks Competition laws could be a death knell for startup mergers and acquisitions MORE (D-Minn.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeBiden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia US launches second Somalia strike in week MORE (R-Utah) and Reps. David CicillineDavid CicillineLobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Top Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East MORE (D-R.I.) and Ken BuckKenneth (Ken) Robert BuckHillicon Valley: Biden: Social media platforms 'killing people' | Tech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push | Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Top House antitrust Republican forms 'Freedom from Big Tech Caucus' Bipartisan group calls on Biden to clarify reasoning for Syria airstrikes MORE (R-Colo.) urged the regulatory agency’s chief Lina KhanLina KhanBiden signals tough stance on tech with antitrust picks Hillicon Valley: Biden to appoint Big Tech critic to DOJ antitrust role | House passes host of bills to strengthen cybersecurity in wake of attacks | Bezos returns from flight to space House passes bill to revive FTC authority to recover money for consumers MORE to pursue enforcement action against the social media giant despite an unfavorable court ruling earlier this week.

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg sent the FTC’s case back to the agency Monday, ruling that it had provided insufficient evidence for the claim that Facebook controls over 60 percent of the personal social networking market.

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The FTC was given 30 days to refile its complaint. The agency also has the option to file charges against Facebook through its in-house court.

The lawmakers, who are the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House subcommittees dedicated to antitrust, called on the FTC to “consider all available options under the law for ensuring that the Commission’s claims receive a full and fair hearing before the court.”

The FTC has said it is “closely reviewing” Boasberg’s ruling and “assessing the best option forward.”

The court’s partial dismissal of the FTC’s case — and full dismissal of one brought by a coalition of state attorneys general — has intensified calls for Congress to overhaul antitrust rules to better regulate tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

The House Judiciary Committee voted last week to advance six bills, spearheaded by Ciciline and Buck, designed to provide more resources and authority to antitrust regulators, as well as expanding the legal definition of behavior that is considered anti-competitive. 

The proposals may have difficulty getting to the House floor though, with Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse Democrats grow frustrated as they feel ignored by Senate Democrats warn leadership against excluding House from infrastructure talks Ethics panel upholds 0 mask fines against Greene, other GOP lawmakers MORE (D-Md.) saying this week that they are not ready for a vote yet. There are no companion bills in the Senate.