FTC Gets Approval To Move Ahead Against Facebook Monopoly Claims

The US Federal Trade Commission's grind with the monopolization claims against social media giants, Meta Platforms Inc. (FB), formerly known as Facebook, will continue as a DC judge has permitted the agency to proceed with a revised filing despite proving the claim being a "tall task".

In the filing reported on Tuesday, the District of Columbia judge James Boasberg said, "The Federal Trade Commission's first antitrust suit against Facebook, Inc. stumbled out of the starting blocks, as this Court dismissed the Complaint last June." The court allowed the watchdog to revise its complaint and file it again. The revised filing also keeps the allegations unchanged and the crux of the matter remains the same. Boasberg added, "The facts alleged this time around to fortify those theories, however, are far more robust and detailed than before, particularly in regard to the contours of Defendant's alleged monopoly."

The FTC claims that Meta has a clear monopoly over the social media market and has strengthened it by acquiring competitors like WhatsApp and Instagram. Boasberg's opinion says that the new filing does a better job at putting forward the original argument. "In stark contrast with its predecessor, this complaint provides reinforcing, specific allegations that all point toward the same conclusion: Facebook has maintained a dominant market share during the relevant time period." The judge goes on to add that if FTC's research is believed, "Facebook's market share comfortably exceeds the levels that courts ordinarily find sufficient to establish monopoly power."

Boasberg also canceled Facebook's allegation that Lina Khan is prejudging Meta's guilt by saying, "although the court recognizes the importance of her vote, it is an exaggeration to treat Khan as the sole instigator of the current case."

"Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone's guess. The Court declines to engage in such speculation and simply concludes that at this motion-to-dismiss stage, where the FTC's allegations are treated as true, the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief under Section 2 of the Sherman Act," added the judge.

In June, Boasberg had dismissed complaints against Facebook filed by FTC and state attorneys general led by New York's Letitia James. In August, FTC refiled the case saying "Today, the Federal Trade Commission filed an amended complaint against Facebook in the agency's ongoing federal antitrust case. The complaint alleges that after repeated failed attempts to develop innovative mobile features for its network, Facebook instead resorted to an illegal buy-or-bury scheme to maintain its dominance. It unlawfully acquired innovative competitors with popular mobile features that succeeded where Facebook's own offerings fell flat or fell apart"

Talking about the opinion, a Meta spokesperson said, "Today's 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. 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."

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