Last year, Biden and his team announced a commitment to reinvigorated antitrust actions. And they’ve been delivering on their word. Meta — the rebranding of Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp — is in the Federal Trade Commission’s crosshairs. There is no doubting that Meta has a huge market share. When Facebook servers went down last October, tens of millions of people reliant on Whatsapp weren’t able to communicate with each other. And now, the FTC wants Meta to divest itself of Instagram and Whatsapp, accusing the company of “pursing a course of anti-competitive conduct.” This is not the first attempted suit of its kind that Meta has faced, but it does have teeth. According to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia James E. Boasberg:
“Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone’s guess. The court declines to engage in such speculation and simply concludes that at this motion-to-dismiss stage, where the FTC’s allegations are treated as true, the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief,”
I share Judge Boasberg’s toss-up sentiment about the FTC’s path to victory. While about 2.8 billion people use Meta’s services daily, American antitrust has progressed past the point where a company’s mere size is its deadly sin. If Meta can prove that its acquisition of Instagram and Whatsapp had non-anticompetitive ends like lowering costs or increasing functionality for customers, the FTC might not walk away with the W. I am definitely interested in the FTC’s theory of the case though — I’m sure the trial (if it actually happens and doesn’t just end in a settlement) will result in some juicy details about how the Zuckerberg camp conducts business. I’m sure we’ll all hear about the trial’s progression through Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp oddly enough.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.