A US Federal judge has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can proceed with its lawsuit against Meta with a view to forcing the company to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. Judge James Boasberg declared this week that the FTC’s revised lawsuit accusing Meta of pursuing a, “Course of anti-competitive conduct” may continue.
Boasberg wrote that, “Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone’s guess. 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”.
While Boasberg noted that the FTC's latest filing was “far more robust and detailed,” he also wrote that, “The agency has also explained that Facebook not only possesses monopoly power but that it has wilfully maintained that power through anti-competitive conduct – specifically, the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.”
Although he will allow the lawsuit to continue this time, it may be a moot point, as Boasberg also said that the FTC could not claim that Facebook blocked competing apps from accessing its platform as a way to maintain its dominance.
A spokesperson for Meta said that, “Today’s decision narrows the scope of the FTC’s case by rejecting claims about our platform policies. It also acknowledges that the agency faces a ‘tall task’ proving its case regarding two acquisitions it cleared years ago”.
This legal action began in December 2020 and was rejected by the court in June last year on the basis that it lacked specific information. The FTC filed a more detailed complaint in August, contending that the social media company had crushed or bought rivals. Zuckerberg had asked for this case to be dismissed, but the ruling this week opens the gates for further action.