On Monday, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed antitrust lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and a group of state attorneys general against Facebook.
The FTC claimed Facebook set forth a strategy to stifle competition to create a social media powerhouse by purchasing growing platforms such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. Democrat Attorney General Letitia James of New York described the situation saying Facebook, “used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users.” Judge Boasberg, however, ruled that the suits were “legally insufficient.”
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He said, “These allegations – which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook’s market share at any point over the past ten years – ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power.” Boasberg’s ruling dismisses the complaint but not the case which means the FTC could file a new complaint in 30 days.
In an emailed statement, Facebook responded to the outcome of the suit: “We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook. We compete fairly every day to earn people’s time and attention and will continue to deliver great products for the people and businesses that use our services” (AP).
Pew Research reports that Facebook stands as one of the most widely used social media sites among U.S. adults with nearly seven in ten saying they have used the platform. Most Americans, however, have relatively little knowledge of the business dealings of social media companies. Only 29 percent of surveyed Americans correctly identified Instagram and WhatsApp as two media sites owned by Facebook.
In general, U.S. adults feel that social media companies hold an exorbitant amount of power and influence over politics today, a view that encompasses majorities of both Republicans, Democrats, and independents who lean either way. Two-thirds also say social media has a mostly negative impact on current events. As a result of these feelings, Americans have grown to become largely in favor of more regulation of major technology companies. Roughly 47 percent of U.S. adults believe the government should increase their control over major technology companies while only 11 percent believe in less regulation.
The House Judiciary Committee recently approved a package of legislation that could lead toward the breakup of not only Facebook but also Google, Amazon, and Apple. Head Republican sponsor of the legislation, Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, remarked on the ruling saying it “shows that antitrust reform is urgently needed. Congress needs to provide additional tools and resources to our antitrust enforcers to go after Big Tech companies engaging in anticompetitive conduct.”