FTC Antitrust Lawsuit Against Tech Conglomerate Meta May Proceed, US Judge Rules

© REUTERS / Dado RuvicA woman holds smartphone with Facebook logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021
A woman holds smartphone with Facebook logo in front of a displayed Facebook's new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration picture taken October 28, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.01.2022
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In June, a US judge dismissed the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust complaint against Meta—then Facebook—arguing that the agency failed to set forth sufficient evidence to support its claim that Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has monopoly power in the social networking market.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may proceed with its antitrust lawsuit against Meta, following a Tuesday ruling by US District Judge James E. Boasberg.
The Washington DC-based judge detailed that the FTC "stumbled out of the starting blocks" with its first antitrust complaint, which he deemed "legally insufficient," particularly in regard to its claim that Meta violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act. At the time, Boasberg declared that the FTC presented only the "naked allegation" that the company maintained a dominant share (over 60%) of the 'Personal Social Networking Services' market.
The revised complaint submitted to the US District Court, however, contains facts that are "far more robust and detailed," Boasberg wrote in his memorandum opinion.
The federal judge also noted that the core argument remains the same: Facebook, now Meta, is alleged to have unlawfully maintained a monopoly in its market via the acquisition of threatening competitors and the implementation and enforcement of policies that prevented interoperability between the platform and apps it "viewed as nascent threats."
"Although the agency may well face a tall task down the road in proving its allegations," Boasberg acknowledged, "the Court believes that it has now cleared the pleading bar and may proceed to discovery."
Responding to the Tuesday decision, a Meta spokesperson declared that the move "narrows the scope of the FTC's case by rejecting claims about our platform policies."
"We're confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims," the company spokesperson declared. "Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today."
The suit is just one of several federal efforts to curtail the unique power held by various members of Big Tech.
This Saturday, March 14, 2020 file photo shows an Apple logo on the facade of the downtown Brooklyn Apple store in New York. On Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020 - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.12.2021
DoJ Antitrust Probes Into Apple, Google Reportedly Delayed Due to Lack of Cash
Late last year, Google critic Jonathan Kanter was confirmed by the US Senate as Assistant Attorney General of the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, allowing him to inherit a Trump-era lawsuit that claims Google blocked market rivals from key distribution channels.
Kanter recently came under fire from Google, who claimed that the DoJ's antitrust chief should recuse himself from matters involving the Alphabet-owned company due to his prior work with rivals such as Yelp.
In addition, members of Congress have turned to antitrust legislation in an attempt to augment the authority that can be wielded over US-based tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, and Meta.
The logos of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google in a combination photo. File Photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.10.2021
Bill to Curb Big Tech Rigging Online Commerce in Their Favor Garners Bipartisan Support
One of several proposals introduced by US lawmakers last year was the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a bipartisan bill backed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chuck Grassley (R-AK), and nine other senators that, in part, seeks to block platforms from requiring companies operating on their site to purchase the platform's own goods or services.
The proposal also calls for limitations on search and ranking functions.
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