Judge agrees to hear revised FTC antitrust case against Facebook

A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Federal Trade Commission’s revised antitrust suit against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, can proceed, shutting down the company’s request for a dismissal.  

In a revised complaint filed last August, the FTC argues that the company pursued a “buy or bury” strategy against rivals to suppress competition.  

This is the FTC’s second antitrust run at the company, as the federal judge, James Boasberg of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, dismissed in June antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the agency and a broad coalition of state attorneys general that were among multiplying efforts by federal and state regulators to rein in tech titans’ market power.  

Last year, the judge said that the FTC had not provided sufficient evidence that the company had a monopoly in social media and abused that power by harming competition. The agency refiled the case in August. 

The claims also refer to the fact that the company abused its monopoly power through acquisitions, which the agency has described as a “buy-or-bury” strategy. He dismissed, however, the agency’s charge that Facebook violated antitrust laws by cutting off third parties from its platform.  

“Although the agency may well face a tall task down the road in proving its allegations, the court believes that it has now cleared the pleading bar and may proceed to discovery,” Judge Boasberg said.  

Boasberg, who in June ruled that the FTC’s original lawsuit was “legally insufficient” and didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly, said in Tuesday’s ruling, adding that the first complaint “stumbled out of the starting blocks.”  

But the claim that Facebook is a monopoly engaging in anticompetitive behavior remains intact, and this time is “far more robust and detailed than before.”  

In a statement, Meta said it is “confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims.”  

It added: “Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp transformed them into what they are today,” the company said. “They have been good for competition and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products.”  

Director of the FTC’s bureau of competition, Holly Vedova, said the agency presented a “strong amended complaint a strong amended complaint, and we look forward to trial.”