Thomas Gallatin / June 29, 2021

Facebook’s Antitrust Win Sends Stock Soaring

A DC district judge threw out the lawsuits, pushing Facebook’s stock value over $1T for the first time.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg threw out antitrust lawsuits against social media giant Facebook that were raised last December by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 48 states. Boasberg, an appointee of Barack Obama, ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to provide enough evidence demonstrating that Facebook was an acting monopoly. Furthermore, Boasberg declared that too much time had elapsed since Facebook had acquired then-competitors Instagram (2012) and WhatsApp (2014) to now be raising the antitrust charge. The speech-suppressing “platform” can thus continue doing what it’s doing.

Regardless of Facebook’s status, the decision serves as an embarrassment to the FTC, which Boasberg chastised for raising such a significant lawsuit while providing almost no supporting evidence. “Such an unsupported assertion might (barely) suffice in a Section 2 case involving a more traditional goods market, in which the Court could reasonably infer that market share was measured by revenue, units sold, or some other typical metric,” Boasberg wrote. “But this case involves no ordinary or intuitive market.”

Furthermore, “The FTC’s Complaint says almost nothing concrete on the key question of how much power Facebook actually had, and still has, in a properly defined antitrust product market,” the court’s filing reads. “It is almost as if the agency expects the Court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist.”

This was always going to be a difficult case to make against a massive Big Tech apparatus, but it appears that the FTC didn’t bother to put much effort into the case either. It’s almost as if the FTC treated it as if the cake was baked even before bringing the lawsuit. Which raises a key question: Was this simply an effort to placate those angered over Facebook’s abusive censorship practices while at the same time sending Facebook a message to keep doing what the Democrats want, or else?

Is Facebook guilty of breaching antitrust regulations? In the spirit of free market and a fair society, we think it is. In an article titled “Big Tech’s threat to democracy,” Matthew Crawford argues a critical point: “Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have established portals that people feel they have to pass through to conduct the business of life, and to participate in the common life of the nation. Such bottlenecks are a natural consequence of ‘the network effect.’ It was early innovations that allowed these firms to take up their positions. But it is not innovation, it is these established positions, and the ongoing control of the data it allows them to gather, that accounts for the unprecedented rents they are able to collect, as in a classic infrastructure monopoly.”

Yet that’s also why it will be exceedingly difficult to make the traditional antitrust market-control violation stick.

News of the judge’s antitrust dismissal sent shares of Facebook jumping 4%, and the social media company surpassed $1 trillion in market value for the first time in its history. Mark Zuckerberg and company are laughing all the way to the bank, while American users who made Facebook the behemoth it is today are increasingly losing out as their free speech rights suffer via suppression and demonetization.

Finally, the FTC still has 30 days to refile its antitrust lawsuit without prejudice should the agency provide necessary evidence to back up its monopolization charge, but we’re not holding our breath.

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