Facebook Fails to Block FTC Antitrust Case – Court Ruling

A court ruling says that the FTC antitrust case against Facebook can proceed. It’s the FTC’s second attempt at this.

It was a story that many compared to the anti-trust efforts made against Microsoft. Some even compared it to the government taking on Big Tobacco. Regardless, for those who were rooting for government to reign in “Big Tech”, the numerous anti-trust probes against the large tech giants felt like the day or reckoning had finally arrived.

In 2019, efforts were mounting to push through anti-trust efforts. By the end of 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit, demanding the breakup of Facebook. Essentially, they called for the breakup of Facebook, wanting to spin-off several companies including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Unfortunately, critics of big tech would ultimately be left disappointed. A judge would later dismiss the antitrust suit. All those efforts to finally reign in Big Tech would seem to be all for not. What’s more is that people got that sense that Facebook is simply invulnerable at this point. The company that would later be called Meta seemed to have grown so big that the FTC itself couldn’t contain it. What’s more is that it sparked criticism towards the FTC in how it handled the file in the first place. At any rate, this was a major setback in the anti-trust efforts against large tech companies.

In August of last year, the FTC amended its anti-trust efforts and filed a second lawsuit. While it did signal that the FTC wasn’t so quick to raise the white flag, skepticism was much greater this time around that such an effort would succeed. Facebook, of course, would stand ready to simply bat away anti-trust lawsuits that came its way. After all, it did so before, so why wouldn’t it do so again?

Well, we are learning that Facebooks defence isn’t exactly going to be a slam dunk this time around. A judge has ruled that the antitrust lawsuit can move forward. From TechXplore:

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that US regulators’ re-worked anti-trust case against Facebook can go ahead, saying the complaint was more robust and detailed than the version denied last year.

Judge James Boasberg’s ruling is a blow to Facebook, which faced renewed scrutiny last year after a whistleblower leaked documents showing executives knew the harm their services could cause to teens, democracy and users’ well-being.

The FTC “may well face a tall task down the road in proving its allegations,” but the case will not be dismissed, ruled Boasberg, who last year tossed out the original suit.

His ruling Tuesday denied a push by Facebook, which did not reply to a request seeking comment, to also dismiss the re-worked complaint.

“The Commission continues to allege that Facebook has long had a monopoly in the market… and that it has unlawfully maintained that monopoly,” Boasberg wrote.

“The facts alleged this time around to fortify those theories, however, are far more robust and detailed than before,” he added.

The judge also rejected Facebook’s argument that the case should be dismissed because the commission’s decision to amend and refile was fueled by a bias against the company by FTC chairwoman Lina Khan.

That contention missed the mark, the judge reasoned, because Khan is a prosecutor, not a judge bound to neutrality.

“Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone’s guess,” the judge said in the ruling.

The judge admitted that the FTC faces an uphill battle ahead, but at the same time, wouldn’t simply dismiss the case from even proceeding in the first place. If anything, the antitrust efforts are still alive if anything, though it might be to substantially less fanfare than before.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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