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FTC renews antitrust push against Facebook

'No other personal social networking provider in the United States remotely approaches Facebook’s scale.'

 

Andrew Wyrich

Tech

Published Aug 19, 2021   Updated Aug 19, 2021, 1:52 pm CDT

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an amended antitrust complaint against Facebook on Thursday.

The agency faced a deadline today to file an amended complaint after a federal judge dismissed their suit against the social media giant earlier this summer.

However, the judge dismissed it without prejudice, leaving the door open for the FTC to re-file. The agency also was granted an extension to do so. Meanwhile, Facebook has also pushed for FTC Chair Lina Khan to recuse herself from antitrust matters involving the company, something critics have said was an attempt to “bully” the tech giant’s regulators.

In the complaint, the FTC argues that Facebook has “maintained its monopoly position” by “systematically” acquiring “companies that it viewed as serious competitive threats” like WhatsApp and Instagram.

“No other personal social networking provider in the United States remotely approaches Facebook’s scale,” the complaint reads.

The complaint also argues that Facebook’s “personal social networking monopoly is protected by high barriers to entry” because any new social network faces difficulty in attracting users because it competes with Facebook.

“Oftentimes, even an entrant with a superior product cannot succeed against the overwhelming network effects enjoyed by an incumbent personal social network,” the complaint says.

The FTC says Facebook’s actions harmed consumers because the company “deprives personal social networking users in the United States of the benefits of competition, including increased choice, quality, and innovation.”

“Facebook’s unlawful course of conduct to maintain its monopoly continues today and must be enjoined,” the FTC says in the amended complaint. “Facebook continues to hold and operate the assets it acquired unlawfully and continues to keep them positioned to provide a protective ‘moat’ around its personal social networking monopoly. Moreover, Facebook continues to monitor competitive threats and will seek to acquire or kneecap them unless enjoined.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on competition policy, antitrust, and consumer rights, said she was “glad” the FTC filed the amended complaint and urged the agency “to continue to consider all available options under the law to hold Facebook accountable.”

In a statement, Facebook said that“It is unfortunate that despite the court’s dismissal of the complaint and conclusion that it lacked the basis for a claim, the FTC has chosen to continue this meritless lawsuit. There was no valid claim that Facebook was a monopolist—and that has not changed. Our acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were reviewed and cleared many years ago, and our platform policies were lawful.”

The FTC voted 3-2 to file the amended complaint.

You can read all of the FTC’s amended complaint here.

This story has been updated with comment from Facebook.


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*First Published: Aug 19, 2021, 11:44 am CDT