Judge dismisses FTC’s initial antitrust complaint against Facebook

A federal judge has dismissed the FTC’s initial antitrust complaint against Facebook, saying it was “legally insufficient.” While it’s an early win for Facebook, the FTC’s antitrust case against the company isn’t necessarily over. The judge noted that the FTC can file an amended complaint in the next 30 days.

But Judge James Boasberg said that the FTC would need to provide more evidence to back up its claims that Facebook is a monopoly. “The FTC has failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element of all of its Section 2 claims — namely, that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services,” Boasberg wrote. “The Complaint contains nothing on that score save the naked allegation that the company has had and still has a ‘dominant share of th[at] market (in excess of 60%).’”

Separately, Judge Boasberg also dismissed the antitrust lawsuit against Facebook filed by attorneys general from 48 states and territories. The suits, which were announced alongside the FTC’s, said Facebook had illegally stifled competition. But the judge wrote that too much time had passed for the case to move forward.

The FTC and the states had filed antitrust charges against the company in December, saying the company had engaged in anti-competitive behavior in acquiring competitors like WhatsApp and Instagram in an effort to neutralize companies it saw as a threat. The cases also cited Facebook’s dealings with competitors like Snapchat and Vine.

The dismissals are a notable victory for Facebook, which had argued that neither the states or the FTC had a credible antitrust case. The social network had accused the FTC of seeking a “do-over” for acquisitions it had previously approved. In response to the FTC suit, the judge noted the agency “is on firmer ground in scrutinizing the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.”

It’s not yet clear how the FTC will respond, but it’s hardly the end of Facebook’s antitrust woes. Congress recently introduced v, including one that would target major acquisitions like Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram. The company is also facing antitrust investigations by regulators in the UK and European Union.

Update 6/28 4:55pm ET: In a statement, Facebook said it was “pleased” with the judge’s decisions. “We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook. 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.” 

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