In a significant blow to US regulators’ attempt to curb big technology, a federal judge dismissed lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a broad coalition of state attorneys general.
The US government and 48 states and districts sued Facebook in December 2020, accusing the tech company of abusing its market power on social media to crush smaller competitors and seek solutions that could include a forced division of the messaging services Instagram and WhatsApp from the social network.
But on monday US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the lawsuits were “legally insufficient” and did not provide sufficient evidence to show that Facebook was a monopoly. The ruling dismisses the complaint, but not the case, meaning the FTC could re-file another complaint.
“These allegations, which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range of Facebook’s market share at any time during the past 10 years, ultimately fail to plausibly establish that Facebook has market power,” he said .
The FTC had alleged that Facebook engaged in “a systematic strategy” to eliminate its competition, including buying up smaller emerging rivals like Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. New York Attorney General Letitia James said in presenting the That Facebook “It used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and end competition, all at the expense of everyday users.”
Boasberg also dismissed the separate complaint filed by the state attorneys general. In that firing, he said attorneys general waited too long to challenge Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp’s acquisition in 2014, which they accused of monopoly.
Critics say the rulings are a major setback in the quest to divide the Silicon Valley giants.
“This decision makes it clear that we cannot sit back and wait for the courts to save us from big tech monopolies,” said Evan Greer, director of the digital rights group Fight for the Future.
Greer and others said the decision underscores the need for a more comprehensive antitrust law from Congress. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, a fierce critic of big technology, called the decision “deeply disappointing” and said the court recognized that Facebook has “massive market power, but essentially shrugged.”
Shares of Facebook surged in the wake of the decision, taking the company’s market value to more than $ 1 trillion for the first time. Although the result marks a setback for those who would like to see Facebook controlled, state and federal prosecutors have 30 days to re-file antitrust complaints that address the judge’s concerns.
“This is a very bad sign for the suit and in the ongoing battle with big technology,” said Rebecca Allensworth, a law professor at Vanderbilt University. “But this is a battle in an ongoing war.”
Facebook, in a statement given to the Associated Press, said: “We are pleased that today’s decisions acknowledge the flaws in the government complaints filed against Facebook. We compete fairly every day to earn people’s time and attention, and we will continue to deliver great products for the people and businesses that use our services. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism