Federal Court Dismisses FTC Antitrust Suit against Facebook

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., October 23, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

A D.C. federal court on Monday dismissed lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 U.S. states seeking to break up Facebook over its engagement in ‘anticompetitive practices.’

The FTC had alleged that Facebook engaged in “anticompetitive conduct” through its acquisition of messaging app WhatsApp and social-media app Instagram. However, Judge James E. Boasberg of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote in his opinion that the FTC was unable to detail its methods for concluding that Facebook held a dominant market share of social networking services.

“The FTC has failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element of” its claims, “namely, that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services,” Boasberg wrote.The Complaint contains nothing on that score save the naked allegation that the company has had and still has a ‘dominant share of th[at] market (in excess of 60%).'”

Boasberg granted Facebook’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but gave the FTC time to file an emended complaint if the agency chooses to do so. The FTC will be able to file an emended complaint within 30 days.

In addition, the court also dismissed an antitrust suit brought by 48 state attorneys general, led by New York attorney general Letitia James.

Facebook stocks rose following the ruling on Monday afternoon, and the company topped $1 trillion in value for the first time.

Representative Ken Buck (R., Colo.), the ranking member of the House Antitrust Committee, called for reforms in antitrust law following the ruling.

“Today’s development in the FTC’s case against Facebook shows that antitrust reform is urgently needed,” Buck said in a statement. “Congress needs to provide additional tools and resources to our antitrust enforcers to go after Big Tech companies engaging in anticompetitive conduct.”

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) also criticized the ruling.

This is deeply disappointing from the court, which acknowledged [Facebook’s] massive market power but essentially shrugged its shoulders. Bad result for the American people,” Hawley wrote on Twitter.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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