Judge okays lawsuit that may split up Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp

Facebook’s market share comfortably exceeds levels that courts usually find sufficient to establish monopoly power. (Credits: Reuters)

A US judge this week refused to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Facebook’s parent company Meta.

The outcome of the lawsuit could split the tech giant.

After dismissing the lawsuit last year, the judge gave the green light to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the US consumer protection agency – to move forward with the lawsuit to force Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alleged that Meta has an illegal monopoly on personal social networking services and has maintained it by acquiring competitors such as photo-sharing app, Instagram, and personal messaging app WhatsApp.

The judge, James Boasberg, said in his opinion this week that the FTC’s first complaint had “stalled from the starting blocks” but that the revised version contained “more robust and detailed” facts than before.

The amended version changed Judge Boasberg’s opinion and Meta’s motion to dismiss the case was dismissed.

Unlike the previous lawsuit, the FTC bolstered it with specific allegations that Facebook held a dominant market share.

Clubhouse and popular social networking apps

Meta has a monopoly on personal social media apps with Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp. (Credits: Getty Images)

“Facebook’s market share comfortably exceeds levels that courts normally find sufficient to establish a monopoly power,” the judge’s note said.

However, he noted that the FTC may find proof of the allegations against the technology over its acquisition of Whatsapp and Instagram that it made clear years ago, a ‘daunting task’.

A Meta spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: “Today’s decision narrows the scope of the FTC’s case by rejecting allegations related to our platform policies.”

Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp have transformed them into what they are today. It has been good for the competition, and good for the individuals and companies that choose to use our products,” they added.

The company attempted to dismiss the lawsuit by claiming that former FTC Chair Lina Khan’s public criticism of Facebook referred to an “axe for grinding” based on personal animosity or financial conflicts of interest. But the judge does not seem to believe that is the case.

“Although the court recognizes the importance of its vote, it would be an exaggeration to treat Khan as the sole instigator in the present case,” the judge said.

The FTC’s lawsuit against Meta is just one of several US government efforts to monitor the monopoly of big tech companies.

In October 2021, the US Department of Justice sued Google for its anti-competitive practices that allegedly harm competition and consumers.

Earlier this month, a class action lawsuit was filed against both Apple and Google over alleged payments of billions of dollars from Google to Apple as part of an agreement whereby Iphone No maker will compete in the internet search business.

Mark Zuckerberg

The FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is likely to split the tech giant. Copyright: 2018 Getty Images

Boasberg had dismissed the lawsuit earlier in June, saying the complaint contained “nothing” that proves Meta’s monopoly except that it owns a dominant stake in the personal social networking service.

The Federal Trade Commission had sued Facebook during the previous Trump administration, and the court dismissed its complaint. Then, the agency filed an amended complaint in August, again asking a judge to compel the company to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

The new complaint included data from Comscore that illuminates Meta’s market share of daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs) for social networks, as well as the relative time spent on these networks.

However, the judge said the FTC cannot press allegations that Facebook banned competing apps from accessing its platform as a way to maintain its dominance as the throne policies were abandoned in 2018.

“Eventually, the FTC will be able to make its case and win the summary judgment and trial,” Boasberg wrote.

The FTC, under the new presidency, Lena Khan, wants to force Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp for pursuing ‘anti-competitive behaviour’.

Meta platforms are used by 2.8 billion people around the world on a daily basis.

The lawsuit did little to shake Meta’s confidence as shares closed 1.9% on Tuesday, valuing the company at $930 billion (£683 billion).

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