According to a statement from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a bipartisan group of antitrust experts urged the Federal Trade Commission on Friday to proceed with its lawsuit against Facebook.
Klobuchar, Sen. Mike Lee, and Reps. David Cicilline and Ken Buck urged the FTC in a letter to new FTC Chair Lina Khan to “pursue enforcement action against Facebook and to consider all available legal options for ensuring that the commission’s claims receive a full and fair hearing.”
Klobuchar and Cicilline, both Democrats, and Lee and Buck, both Republicans, are the chairs of the House and Senate antitrust committees, respectively.
The FTC is expected to file a new complaint against Facebook following the dismissal of one filed in December by US District Judge James Boasberg of the District of Columbia, experts said.
That complaint, which sought to compel Facebook to sell photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp, failed, Boasberg explained, because the FTC failed to establish the company’s monopoly power and the FTC’s allegations of anticompetitive behavior were too old.
Numerous senior FTC officials stated that it was implausible that the agency lacked data to support its assertion that Facebook controlled “in excess of 60%” of the social media market.
“What he said was, ‘I’m not going to read the newspaper and believe that Facebook is a monopoly,’” said Andy Gavil, an FTC veteran and professor of law at Howard University.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on this story. It noted previously that Instagram and WhatsApp grew enormously under Facebook’s stewardship. It stated that it would vigorously defend itself against the FTC in court.
GO LARGE OR GO HOME?
Under new leadership, the FTC may file a much broader complaint and have it heard by an FTC administrative law judge, effectively bringing the case in-house.
William Kovacic, a former FTC chair and current professor of law at George Washington University, said that a new complaint could include additional allegations, such as an allegedly unfair method of competition.
“That is a subject that she (Khan) has discussed and written about numerous times,” he explained.
Additionally, experts predicted that the dismissal would strengthen support for legislation aimed at beefing up antitrust enforcement.
“If these dismissals tip the balance, it will be in favor of action. If the government can win even a small victory in these cases, that is an argument for inaction,” Herb Hovenkamp of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School explained.