The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) antitrust complaint against Facebook parent company Meta can proceed, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
Judge James Boasberg denied Meta’s request to dismiss the antitrust suit, finding that the FTC demonstrated sufficient evidence to move the lawsuit on to the discovery portion of the complaint.
“Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone’s guess,” Boasberg wrote. “The Court declines to engage in such speculation and simply concludes that at this motion-to-dismiss stage, where the FTC’s allegations are treated as true, the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief under Section 2 of the Sherman Act.”
The FTC had initially sued Facebook in over alleged antitrust violations, such as Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram, in December 2020, arguing the tech giant held a monopoly in personal social networking and alleging harm to consumers and other tech companies.
Boasberg had previously sided with Facebook, dismissing the FTC’s previous lawsuit with leave to amend in June 2021 and ruling that the regulator had failed to demonstrate Facebook held a monopoly in social networking. However, the FTC refiled its complaint in August, bolstering its argument with additional data and evidence.
“The facts alleged this time around to fortify those theories, however, are far more robust and detailed than before, particularly in regard to the contours of Defendant’s alleged monopoly,” Boasberg wrote.
The suit is overseen by FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, who has pushed for more aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws, particularly in technology and social media markets. Facebook filed a petition in July 2020 to force Khan to recuse herself from the lawsuit, citing her publicly-stated views on tech giants.
When reached for comment, a Meta spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the company viewed the decision as narrowing the scope of the FTC’s case against the tech giant.
“We’re confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today,” the spokesperson said. “They have been good for competition, and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products.”