Thomas Gallatin / March 11, 2021

Facebook Hits Back at Antitrust Lawsuits

The social media giant claims the suits aren’t actually over antitrust violations.

On Wednesday, Facebook pushed back against antitrust lawsuits filed last December by the Federal Trade Commission and 46 state attorneys general. In seeking to have the lawsuits dismissed prior to trial, Facebook argued that the cases “do not credibly claim that our conduct harmed” either users or competing companies. Rather, Facebook asserted, the real motive for the lawsuits is an attempt by the FTC to have a “do-over” of its past decisions okaying Facebook’s purchase of competitors WhatsApp and Instagram.

The social media giant further contended that it has not harmed users because its “products are offered for free and in unlimited quantities.” Regarding the allegation that Facebook has essentially engaged in monopolistic and anticompetitive actions by cutting off access to its platform for third-party developers, Facebook claimed Supreme Court rulings have set a clearly established precedent that it was under no obligation to provide competitors access to its platform.

However, success for Facebook is not a given. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “Facebook will have to meet a high legal standard to convince a federal judge to throw out the cases before trial. In order to prevail on a motion to dismiss, the company must show that the plaintiffs’ factual allegations about the nature of the marketplace, even if accepted as true, don’t establish a valid legal claim.”

Facebook argues that it’s not a near-monopoly and therefore is not guilty of anticompetitive practices. Yet the very model of its platform is designed to monopolize — the monopoly is the point. The more users the platform has, the greater the ability for Facebook to generate ad revenue. Therefore, allege the FTC and the state AGs, to mitigate the threat of users abandoning Facebook for a competitor, the social media giant simply bought the competition.

It’s Facebook’s abuse via dubious and blatantly politically motivated censorship practices that has raised the greatest ire with users. Facebook tacitly admits as much by suggesting that the antitrust lawsuits were raised “for matters entirely unrelated to antitrust concerns.” It is most certainly not “entirely unrelated” — the monopoly makes the censorship all that much more consequential as Facebook redlines the First Amendment.

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