By Natalie DeCoste
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a new antitrust complaint against Facebook after a judge dismissed its earlier one, signaling that the government agency will refuse to yield to the social media giant.
The FTC voted 3-2 along party lines on Aug. 18 to file a new antitrust complaint against Facebook, revamping the case after a federal judge dismissed the agency’s original suit in June. In June, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg disagreed with the FTC’s case and deemed the lawsuit “legally insufficient” because it did not plead enough allegations to support monopolization claims against Facebook.
In June, the judge found that the FTC’s claim that Facebook controlled more than 60% of the market was too speculative and conclusory because the agency failed to explain the metrics or methods it used to calculate Facebook’s market share. Supporting this claim was the crux of the FTC’s Section Two of the Sherman Antitrust Act argument. Additionally, the judge said that the FTC lacked the authority to bring charges against Facebook based on actions taken seven years ago.
The FTC was initially granted 30 days to fix the errors in its original lawsuit and refile it. The agency filed for an extension to Aug. 19 on July 23 to amend its complaint. Facebook has until Oct. 4 to respond to the new filing.
Now, the FTC has filed once again, continuing to push towards its goal of breaking up the social media giant by unwinding the company’s Obama-era acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
“Failing to compete on business talent, Facebook developed a plan to maintain its dominant position by acquiring companies that could emerge as or aid competitive threats. By buying up these companies, Facebook eliminated the possibility that rivals might harness the power of the mobile internet to challenge Facebook’s dominance,” read the new complaint.
A similar lawsuit to the FTC’s that came from a coalition of state attorneys general was also dismissed in June by Judge Boasberg, but he did not give the attorneys general the same opportunity to refile that he granted to the FTC.
The FTC has continued to push ahead in its efforts to battle Facebook’s monopoly despite the best efforts of the social media giant. In early July, Facebook filed a petition seeking to get Lina Khan, chairwoman of the FTC, recused from the ongoing antitrust lawsuit.
“When a new Commissioner has already drawn factual and legal conclusions and deemed the target a lawbreaker, due process requires that individual to recuse herself from related matters when acting in the capacity of an FTC Commissioner,” read the petition.
However, Facebook’s efforts failed, and the FTC’s Office of General Counsel determined that Khan did not need to recuse herself from the vote. The decision of the FTC’s General Counsel gave the agency a significant victory in the ongoing war between the FTC and Facebook, as Khan is a significant force in the progressive antitrust movement.