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11 Jan, 2022 23:30

Judge rules on Facebook antitrust lawsuit

The Federal Trade Commission will move ahead with the amended antitrust lawsuit against the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp
Judge rules on Facebook antitrust lawsuit

The same federal judge who dismissed the first FTC antitrust lawsuit against Facebook has now allowed the amended complaint against Meta to move ahead, saying it was “more robust and detailed.”

“Second time lucky? 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,” US District Judge James Boasberg wrote in a 48-page opinion on Tuesday. 

Though the “core theory of the lawsuit remains essentially unchanged,” Boasberg wrote, the new complaint contains “significant additions and revisions,” while the “facts alleged this time around to fortify those theories, however, are far more robust and detailed than before.”

Last year, Boasberg dismissed both the initial FTC complaint and the lawsuit by 48 states and the District of Columbia, alleging monopolistic behavior by Mark Zuckerberg’s social media behemoth. Facebook’s market cap surged past $1 trillion as a result. The company has since rebranded as Meta.

The commission has since filed an amended complaint, alleging that Zuckerberg bought out competing platforms such as Instagram and WhatsApp and established a monopoly in personal social networking, in a class of its own.

Noting that the FTC “may well face a tall task down the road in proving its allegations,” Boasberg said the revised complaint has “now cleared the pleading bar and may proceed to discovery.”

He also addressed what he called a “flanking” attempt by Meta to get the lawsuit tossed, which alleged that the deciding vote to file the amended complaint was cast by Lina Khan, a Democrat who currently chairs the FTC.

The company alleged Khan should have recused herself, given that she had worked on the 2020 House Judiciary Committee report that paved the way for the antitrust lawsuit. Khan made her name in 2017, when she published an article describing Amazon as a monopoly in the Yale Law Journal. 

Boasberg disagreed, saying that Khan had been acting in her prosecutorial capacity at the time of the vote, and that her views “do not suggest the type of ‘axe to grind’ based on personal animosity or financial conflict of interest that has disqualified prosecutors in the past.”