Technology

Judge denies Facebook’s request to throw out FTC antitrust lawsuit

Associated Press/Jenny Kane

A U.S. judge on Tuesday denied Facebook’s request to throw out a Federal Trade Communication (FTC) lawsuit that accuses the tech company of violating antitrust laws and maintaining a monopoly in the social media market.

Facebook, now part of parent company Meta, had asked the federal court in Washington, D.C., to throw out the lawsuit, arguing the FTC has no factual basis for alleging the company holds a monopoly.

But Judge James Boasberg said the case should go through to trial because “the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief,” Reuters reported.

“Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone’s guess,” he wrote in his decision.

The case comes as the Biden administration and lawmakers in Congress take a tougher stance toward Big Tech. The Department of Justice also has an ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Google, as do several state attorneys general.

The FTC’s lawsuit against Facebook accuses the social media giant of buying out competitors or crushing them through unfair practices.

Many of the allegations are centered on the social media company’s acquisition of WhatsApp in 2014 and Instagram in 2012, which allowed Facebook to dominate the social media landscape, the FTC says.

The lawsuit from the FTC was originally filed in December 2020. A judge rejected that request in June but gave the agency time to file an amended complaint, which it did in August.

According to the FTC, the agency is seeking a permanent injunction that could force Facebook to divest assets including WhatsApp or Instagram.

“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, the director of the agency’s Bureau of Competition, in a December statement.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive,” he added. 

In a statement to The Hill, a Meta spokesperson said the decision “narrows the scope of the FTC’s case by rejecting claims about our platform policies.”

“It also acknowledges that the agency faces a ‘tall task’ proving its case regarding two acquisitions it cleared years ago,” the statement read. “We’re confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today. They have been good for competition, and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products.”

Updated at 4:39 p.m.

Tags antitrust Antitrust lawsuit Big tech Facebook Facebook Federal Trade Communication META monopolies Social media

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