US Court Rules FTC Will Proceed with Suit Seeking to Force Meta to Sell WhatsApp and Instagram

US Court Rules FTC Will Proceed with Suit Seeking to Force Meta to Sell WhatsApp and Instagram

Meta’s push to halt the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s attempt to force it to sell Instagram and WhatsApp has suffered setback, after a District judge ruled that the watchdog’s lawsuit will proceed.

The social media company had asked for the case to be thrown out, but Judge James Boasberg ruled on Tuesday that the FTC case deserves to be heard.

Though Judge Boasberg had in June thrown out the antitrust complaint, saying the FTC prosecutors had not provided enough evidence to prove that Facebook held a monopoly in social networking, he left the door open for the antitrust agency to resubmit its complaint when it has enough proof.

Meta’s move to quash the case was based on the pedigree of the current FTC’s chairperson, Lina Khan, who was a fierce critic of the Big Tech. Meta said her ability to base her judgment on facts is under question.

In August, the FTC refiled its case. Boasberg said on Tuesday it had supplied much more evidence and allowed the suit to proceed. The New York Times reported Boasberg said the facts provided by the FTC this time round were “far more robust and detailed than before, particularly in regard to the contours of defendant’s alleged monopoly.”

The Big Tech has been fighting to ward off attempts to break it up, which have been intensified since Khan was appointed to head the FTC last year. Meta has been at the forefront of the struggle due to its acquisition of rival platforms that is believed to be anticompetitive. But Amazon, Google, Apple and Microsoft have all had antitrust cases to answer.

The FTC had argued in an August press release that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp was illegal and monopolistic. The Commission said the social media company went on “anticompetitive shopping spree” to “maintain its monopoly.”

However, on Tuesday, Boasberg rejected one of the antitrust agency’s central claims, that Facebook had anticompetitively controlled how third parties could access the company’s data. The Judge said the alleged abuses happened too long ago for the FTC to bring a claim now, and the agency does not allege that any similar harms are about to occur.

Responding to the Tuesday’s ruling, Meta told Insider in a statement that Boasberg’s ruling had dismissed one specific claim around Facebook cutting off rivals including Vine from data and features on its platform.

“Today’s decision narrows the scope of the FTC’s case by rejecting claims about our platform policies,” a Meta spokesperson told Insider.

“We’re confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today. They have been good for competition, and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products,” the spokesperson added.

While it’s going to be a long legal battle, the Tuesday’s ruling sets Meta up for a potential breakup that will see the social media behemoth selling off its two most crucial subsidiaries.

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