Antitrust law: US judge allows lawsuit against Facebook

Status: 12.01.2022 8:40 a.m.

The US antitrust authorities want Facebook to have to sell Instagram and WhatsApp again. The amended complaint has now been accepted by a federal court. In the end, the meta-group could be broken up.

The competition lawsuit, with which the US government wants to smash the Facebook parent company Meta, was accepted by a court in Washington at the second attempt. Judge James Boasberg dismissed the first version last summer, citing insufficient reasoning. In the amended lawsuit, he saw the allegation of unfair competition much better justified, as evidenced by court documents. The judge also dismissed Facebook’s request to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that FTC chief Lina Khan was biased.

Dispute over Whatsapp and Instagram

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) accuses the meta group, among other things, of a monopoly position in the market for online networks. Meta also bought the WhatsApp chat service and the Instagram photo platform to protect this monopoly in an unfair way. Therefore, the takeovers would have to be reversed. The process should take years.

More arguments in amended lawsuit

The original lawsuit was filed in December 2020 at the end of then President Donald Trump’s term of office, and it was improved under the leadership of FTC chief Khan, appointed by his successor Joe Biden. As requested by the judge, the FTC provided more arguments in the amended lawsuit that are supposed to prove Facebook’s monopoly position.

The authority relies primarily on the development of user numbers and analyzes of the time people spend on the platform. “The FTC has done its homework this time,” the judge wrote. However, this time he dismissed allegations that Meta had prevented the interaction of its services with those of other developers.

At the same time, the FTC tried in the lawsuit to clearly define the market for social networks. Accordingly, there are platforms on which users maintain contacts with friends and family and share contributions and experiences in a common space. Based on this definition, the FTC sees Twitter, YouTube and the Tiktok video platform, for example, in different categories – because they are more geared towards the use of content than personal connections.

Facebook group is confident

Facebook parent company Meta said via email it was “confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp have made them what they are today.” They are good for the competition and the people and companies who have chosen it.

Facebook bought Instagram for around $ 1 billion in 2012 and WhatsApp for around $ 22 billion in 2014. Instagram now has around a billion users, WhatsApp around two billion. The US competition watchdogs approved the takeovers of Instagram and WhatsApp.

In addition to the FTC, an alliance of more than 40 states had filed a lawsuit against the deals, but Judge Boasberg dismissed it completely in June.


Bernd Kevesligeti
January 12, 2022 • 10:49 am

US judge allows antitrust lawsuit against Facebook …

It almost sounds as if US authorities are more consistent than European or German antitrust authorities. But even if Facebook end up having to sell Instagram and WhatsApp: Nothing will change in the work of the digital extinguishing proletariat behind the glued-up windows of open-plan offices. Working in shifts with a few minute breaks. Facebook’s annual advertising revenue per user increased on average worldwide from $ 21 in 2015 to 2017 to $ 36. In Europe from 24 to 46 dollars (The almighty advertising monopoly, HB April 17, 2018).

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