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Facebook moves to dismiss the US government’s antitrust case

Facebook moves to dismiss the US government’s antitrust case


And the states’ case, too

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

In two motions filed Wednesday, Facebook called on the courts to dismiss a pair of sweeping competition cases brought on by the federal government and a coalition of states.

The Federal Trade Commission and a group of state attorneys general filed separate lawsuits against Facebook last December accusing the tech giant of engaging in anti-competitive behavior. The two lawsuits make similar claims, alleging that Facebook bought Instagram and WhatsApp in order to squash the threat the two apps posed to the company’s business. Additionally, the attorneys general accused Facebook of using its market dominance to stifle the growth of competing services. 

The FTC’s case also calls for the courts to unwind Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp into separate companies once again.

In Facebook’s motion to dismiss the cases, it claims the lawsuits allege that the two nascent apps were “potential” competitors, rather than a pressing and actual threat to Facebook’s business. The FTC declined to comment.

“Facebook is wrong on the law and wrong on our complaint,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement to The Verge Wednesday. “We are confident in our case, which is why almost every state in this nation has joined our bipartisan lawsuit to end Facebook’s illegal conduct. We will continue to stand up for the millions of consumers and many small businesses that have been harmed by Facebook’s unlawful behavior.”

“These complaints do not credibly claim that our conduct harmed either”

“Antitrust laws are intended to promote competition and protect consumers,” Facebook said in a blog post Wednesday. “These complaints do not credibly claim that our conduct harmed either.”

Because the FTC cleared the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions at the time, Facebook also argues that the commission doesn’t have sufficient grounds to reverse that decision. “Facebook is aware of no comparable, much less successful, challenge by the FTC to a long-completed acquisition that the FTC itself cleared,” Facebook’s filing reads.

Facebook is at the center of a series of antitrust investigations brought on by the federal government, states, and Congress. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust held its first hearing on tech dominance after a 16-month probe into companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google. That investigation prompted a report from Democrats calling for structural remedies to Facebook’s business, potentially leading to a breakup. The hearing marked the last leg of the committee’s work, holding a second series of hearings on how to reform US antitrust law as it’s applied to tech companies. 

Committees in both the House and Senate plan to hold hearings this week, and new legislation is expected to land before the end of spring. 

Updated 3/10/21 at 3:12PM ET: Included a statement from New York Attorney General Letitia James.