By Nikhila Natarajan
New York, July 1 (IANS) Critics of Big Tech market power got a preview of the long slog likely ahead in US courts after a federal judge this week dismissed anti-trust lawsuits against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a phalanx of state attorneys general, landing a blow to regulators hoping to rein in the world’s largest social networking platform.
Facebook counts 3.45 billion monthly active users across its family of products – Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and/or WhatsApp – as per its first quarter data for 2021.
In a 53-page opinion, US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the lawsuits were “legally insufficient” and did not provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly.
“Although the Court does not agree with all of Facebook’s contentions here, it ultimately concurs that the agency’s Complaint is legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed,” he wrote.
The ruling goes on to say that the FTC has failed to “plausibly establish” that Facebook has monopoly power.
“The Complaint contains nothing on that score save the naked allegation that the company has had and still has a “dominant share of that market (in excess of 60 per cent)”.
“The FTC’s Complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined antitrust product market,” the ruling reads.
“It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist.”
The complaint has been struck out but the case stays put. The FTC, which now has a strident Big Tech critic – Lina Khan – as its chief, could refile another complaint.
“These allegations, which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook’s market share at any point over the past 10 years, ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power,” the judge said.
“Anyone who thought this was going to be easy and quick should probably step backathe law is tough, the politics are tough,” Harry First, an anti-trust-law professor at the New York University, told Wall Street Journal.
The latest court ruling comes at a time when, in parallel, a clutch of landmark bills are hurtling forward in the US Congress – all of which want to slam the brakes on Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. If these six bills gain momentum, the US could see landmark changes in the tech industry.
In recent years, anger against Big Tech has been on the ascendant in the US and beyond. Countries have begun punching back against these companies’ swagger and the US has clearly been outpaced on technology policy, first by Europe and more recently Australia and India too.
For now, it’s 1-0 for Facebook in the US antitrust techlash. Soon after the Monday judgement landed, the company’s market capitalization shot past $1 trillion for the first time in its history.