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Federal judge dismisses regulators' antitrust suit against Facebook

By
Don Jacobson
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington on October 23, 2019. File photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee in Washington on October 23, 2019. File photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

June 28 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Monday dismissed a major antitrust lawsuit brought by federal and state regulators against social networking giant Facebook.

In a 53-page opinion filed with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Judge James Boasberg ruled that the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general had failed to show that Facebook illegally stifled competitors in the personal social networking services market.

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"Although the Court does not agree with all of Facebook's contentions here, it ultimately concurs that the [FTC's] complaint is legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed," Boasberg wrote.

The FTC argued in the suit, filed in December, that Facebook's share of at least 60% of the online personal networking marketing constitutes a violation of the Sherman Act. It also contended Facebook's refusal to permit interoperability with competing apps is an antitrust violation.

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Boasberg, however, disagreed, calling the market share number "vague" and unsupported by the evidence provided by the FTC.

He also tossed out a separate suit filed by attorneys general, led by New York's Letitia James, claiming Facebook violated antitrust laws with its acquisitions of WhatsApp in 2014 and Instagram in 2012.

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Boasberg agreed with tech giant's argument that the suit was filed too late to apply to those transactions.

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"We are pleased that today's decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints against Facebook," the company said in a statement issued to CNBC. "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."

Boasberg noted, however, the FTC may be able to strengthen its case through an amended complaint and thus continue the litigation.

Facebook stock gained 4.18% and its market value rose above $1 trillion after the ruling.

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