The lawsuit against Meta (formerly Facebook) that forces the platform to sell Instagram and WhatsApp received approval to proceed in court. Federal Judge James Boasberg, who stopped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) action for lack of evidence, continued the case after the presentation of new “robust evidence” by the US antitrust agency.
The lawsuit against Facebook began in December 2020, when the company was sued in US Justice by the FTC and 46 other US state attorneys general – in addition to the districts of Columbia and Guam – who collaborated with the antitrust investigation into the acquisitions. from WhatsApp and Instagram. In the document, the regulatory agency requires Meta to sell the two acquired platforms, in case it expires.
But in June, the FTC suffered a defeat. The case’s rapporteur, Boasberg dismissed the antitrust body’s first complaints against Facebook as being “legally insufficient”. On the same day that the process was interrupted, Mark Zuckerberg’s company reached a market value of US$ 1 trillion.
The new indictment filed by the FTC and approved by the US federal judge is about 24 pages longer than the original, but contains many of the same arguments present in the first document. The main one is that Meta used the purchase of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 to secure its dominant position in the social media market.
“Despite the difficult task entrusted to the agency of proving its allegations throughout the process, the Court believes that it has now clarified its complaint against the Defendant and can proceed with the investigation,” said Boasberg.
However, not all of the allegations in the FTC’s antitrust complaint have received US court approval to proceed. The party that accuses Meta of using “brute force” tactics to weaken its competitors has not received approval from the judge.
In this sense, the agency claims that the social network took advantage of the restriction on access by third-party developers to the API of the Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp applications. This was the case with Vine, launched by Twitter: users of the short video app were unable to access the Facebook friends list to add them.
In October, Meta tried to block the FTC’s lawsuit on the grounds that the federal agency failed to prove that there was a “factual basis behind the monopoly charge.”
A spokesperson for Meta told the Engadget that the decision taken by the Court this Tuesday (11) reduces the impact of the FTC’s allegations, by rejecting the accusations about the platform’s policies. In addition, the antitrust agency would have a difficult task ahead, clarifying what are the problems involving the purchase of WhatsApp and Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg’s company representative added:
“We are confident that the new evidence will reveal the fragility of the FTC’s claims. Our investments in Instagram and WhatsApp have made these platforms what they are today: good for the competition and good for the people and businesses that choose to use our products.”
In 2012, the FTC itself unanimously approved the acquisition of Instagram, while the purchase of WhatsApp was reviewed by a market regulatory agency in the European Union. Meta has already accused the US agency of doing what it considers to be “historical revisionism”, for reassessing two agreements that have already been submitted to antitrust bodies. This measure still creates legal uncertainty, as the company claims.
Meta insists that the purchase of WhatsApp and Instagram has strengthened both applications and made them grow like never before, thanks to the catalog of features offered. In 2012, the year of its acquisition, the photo and video app had no revenue and had only 13 employees. Today, the social network has more than 2 billion users worldwide.