Facebook becomes $1tr company as judge dismisses gov antitrust suits

Facebook becomes a $1TRILLION company for the first time after a DC judge dismisses government antitrust lawsuits that claimed firm holds a ‘monopoly’ over social networking

  • The government and 48 states and districts sued Facebook in December 2020
  • They accused Facebook of abusing its market share to crush competitors
  • The suit potentially sought the forced sale of Instagram and WhatsApp
  • A US district judge on Monday ruled that the lawsuits were ‘legally insufficient’ 
  • He said they did not provide enough evidence that Facebook was a monopoly
  • Facebook’s shares rose 4.18 percent as the complaint was dismissed
  • The price rise pushed Facebook’s value past $1trillion for the first time 
  • The government can refile their suit, but it is unclear if they will do so 

Facebook’s value surpassed $1trillion on Monday for the first time, as the share price rose four percent following the dismissal of antitrust lawsuits bought against the tech giant by the government.

A federal judge on Monday dismissed the complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of state attorneys general – dealing a significant blow to attempts by regulators to rein in tech giants.

US District Judge James Boasberg ruled that the lawsuits were ‘legally insufficient’ and did not provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly. 

Boasberg wrote that the FTC did not do enough to back up its assertion that Facebook holds a ’60pc-plus’ share of the social media market. 

The ruling dismisses the complaint but not the case, meaning the FTC could refile another complaint.

‘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,’ he said. 

Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004, is now worth $1 trillion, thanks to a 4pc share rise following a federal judge’s decision on Monday

Facebook’s share price rose 4.18 percent on Monday after Judge James Boasberg’s ruling

The US government and 48 states and districts sued Facebook in December 2020, accusing the tech giant of abusing its market power in social networking to crush smaller competitors and seeking remedies that could include a forced spinoff of the social network’s Instagram and WhatsApp messaging services.

The FTC had alleged Facebook engaged in a ‘systematic strategy’ to eliminate its competition, including by purchasing smaller up-and-coming rivals like Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James said when filing the suit that Facebook ‘used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users’.

Boasberg dismissed the separate complaint made by the state attorneys general as well.

The ‘Like’ logo is shown on a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California. A federal judge has dismissed antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general

Boasberg said the attorney generals waited too long to challenge Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions, which were completed in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

‘We are reviewing this decision and considering our legal options,’ said a spokesperson for James, one of the leading state AGs on that case.

The FTC has not commented on the ruling and it was unclear whether the agency planned to try again.

Facebook said they believed in fair competition.

‘We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook,’ the company said in a statement. 

‘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.’

Alex Harman, competition policy advocate for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said the ruling was not surprising in that other courts had grappled with and thrown out cases in which consumers weren’t charged directly for the services in question.

‘Courts really have a hard time with that market definition for some reason,’ Harman said. 

‘It’s Exhibit A for why we need the laws changed.’

An ambitious package of legislation to overhaul the antitrust laws, which could point toward breaking up Facebook as well as Google, Amazon and Apple, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week and sent to the full US House.

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, the chief Republican sponsor of the legislation, said in a statement that Monday’s ruling ‘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’.

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