The US competition authority (FTC) and prosecutors representing 48 states and territories believed that Facebook was abusing its dominant position and its well-filled coffers to oust the competition, including asking the courts to force the company to separate. Instagram and WhatsApp.
But according to Judge James Boasberg,
the FTC failed to present enough facts to plausibly establish that the group really had monopoly power over social media.
Agency complaint says almost nothing concrete on key issue of Facebook’s real power […] it’s almost as if the agency expects the court to unflinchingly approve the popular idea that Facebook is a monopoly, remarks the magistrate in his argument.
Regarding the allegations made by the attorneys general against Facebook’s takeovers of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, the judge considered that, filed in 2020, they were far too late.
He further claimed that the policy of Facebook preventing data from being transferred to competing apps, such as Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat, was not against competition laws.
The social network welcomed these decisions which
recognize flaws in government complaints against Facebook.
We compete fairly with other companies every day to gain people’s time and attention, said a spokesperson.
On Wall Street, the action of the group of Mark Zuckerberg ended in the wake up 4.2%, exceeding for the first time the symbolic threshold of 1000 billion dollars in capitalization.
However, the judge leaves a door open: if he rejects the Attorney General’s complaint in its entirety, he gives the FTC30 days to present new documents more specifically to support his accusations.
These decisions come at a time when the American authorities are raising the tone against Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the famous GAFA.
Other lawsuits have been launched in recent months against Google for abuse of a dominant position, and numerous investigations into GAFA are still ongoing.
American elected officials are also determined to attack the omnipotence of these giants: a parliamentary committee last week approved several bills seeking, among other things, to force Facebook to let its users leave the social network by taking their contacts. and personal information about a competitor.
It is also planned to prohibit the colossi of technology from acquiring competitors to preserve their market power.
These texts still have to go through the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, then through the Senate, where their fate is more uncertain.
Facebook had filed in March motions to dismiss the complaints and the attorneys general, arguing that the investigation by the FTC
completely ignored the reality of the dynamic and ultra-competitive high-tech industry in which Facebook operates.
In addition to forcing Facebook to resell Instagram and WhatsApp, the agency wanted Mark Zuckerberg’s group to stop forcing developers to agree to certain conditions and ask for the green light for any buyout activity.
Prosecutors for their part demanded to be warned of any acquisition over $ 10 million.
Similar anti-competitive accusations were launched at the end of the 1990s against the computer group Microsoft. After almost three years of proceedings, however, the Ministry of Justice had failed to dismantle the firm.