FTC files renewed antitrust complaint against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission filed a new antitrust complaint against Facebook on Thursday, continuing its fight in federal court after a judge threw out its initial claims.

Facebook has until Oct. 4 to respond to the FTC’s amended complaint.

Facebook shares were slightly positive Thursday morning. The company said in a statement on Twitter that it would soon have a response to the amended complaint.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg gave the FTC a second chance to bring its claims that Facebook has illegally maintained a monopoly after dismissing its first complaint in June.

Boasberg wrote that the FTC failed to define a plausible market that Facebook monopolized and suggested too loose of a percentage of market share it owned. Plus, he wrote, the FTC lacked authority under its chosen statute to bring charges against Facebook for how it implemented an old policy preventing rivals from accessing its platform seven years ago.

Boasberg said in order to receive an injunction under that statute, it must be clear that a violation is in progress or about to occur.

The new complaint is longer than the original, clocking in at 80 pages compared to 53. But in broad strokes, it maintains the core arguments of the original, including allegations that Facebook used anticompetitive acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to further its monopoly power and that it also unfairly blocked rivals from accessing its application programming interface (API).

Still, it seems to address some of the judge’s criticisms of the initial complaint. For example, in describing how the API access policy was allegedly anticompetitive, the FTC says Facebook “made a deliberate decision to sacrifice the benefits that cut-off apps would otherwise bring to Facebook, including ad spend,” in favor of maintaining its monopoly. The judge had previously written that the FTC would have to show that Facebook implemented the policy to the detriment of its own short-term profits.

The judge also dismissed a similar lawsuit from a coalition of state attorneys general in June, but declined to give them the same second chance as the FTC. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who led the coalition, said they would seek to appeal the ruling.

Facebook filed a petition for new Democratic Chair Lina Khan to be recused from the case, citing her past work and statements critical of the tech industry. Khan said at her confirmation hearing she doesn’t have financial conflicts that would require her recusal from tech cases under ethics laws.

Source: CNBC

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