A US judge has denied Facebook’s attempt to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Federal Trade Commission for a second time to force the social media company to settle its acquisitions from Instagram and WhatsApp.
Judge James Boasberg in Washington said Tuesday in an opinion that the lawsuit, which accuses Facebook of pursuing a “course of competitive action,” could continue.
The rejection of Facebook’s motion – which has since changed its corporate name to Meta – is a victory for the FTC, after its original lawsuit was rejected by Boasberg last year. At the time, the judge said the agency had “failed to plead sufficient facts to establish plausibly” that the company had monopoly power over the social networking market and used a “buy or bury” approach to take out competitors.
However, he gave the FTC the opportunity to amend his complaint, which he did, with additional details to support his allegations.
“The facts that are being claimed this time to strengthen those theories. . . is much more robust and detailed than before, especially with regard to the contours of defendant’s alleged monopoly, ”Boasberg wrote in his opinion.
“The agency also explained that Facebook not only has monopoly power, but that it deliberately retained that power through anti-competitive actions – specifically the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp,” he added.
The judge also rejected Facebook’s argument that the amended complaint should not be authorized because FTC chairwoman Lina Khan participated in the regulator’s vote. The company claims Khan – a prominent Big Tech critic who was named by U.S. President Joe Biden to lead the FTC just weeks before Boasberg’s original ruling – has shown prejudice against the company through her previous writings as an academic.
“The court believes that such an argument misses its target, as Khan acted in a prosecuting capacity, as opposed to a judicial role, in relation to the vote,” the judge wrote.
Facebook did not immediately comment on the ruling. The company must submit its response to the complaint by 25 January.