Facebook may well be sued for abuse of dominant position in social networks

The pressure is mounting on Facebook. The US competition authority (FTC) can sue the company, a judge decided on Tuesday, January 11, bad news for the social networking giant which had tried to have the accusations of dominance invalidated. Washington federal judge James Boasberg ruled the new lawsuit filed by the FTC last August, after his first case was dismissed by the same magistrate in June.

The agency “stumbled in the starting blocks” on its first attempt, and it “will no doubt encounter obstacles in proving its charges”, noted the judge. But “the facts as they are presented this time (…) are more solid and detailed than before”. Its decision rejects the request of Meta (the parent company of Facebook) to dismiss for good the prosecution “without valid evidence”, according to the Californian company.

Facebook argued in particular that the President of the FTC, Lina Khan, is not neutral. But James Boasberg replied that she did not have to be a prosecutor.

In its complaint, the FTC argues that Mark Zuckerberg’s group “illegally bought or buried new innovators when their popularity became an existential threat”, in reference to the Instagram application and WhatsApp messaging. It also argues that “personal social networks constituting a unique and distinct type of online service”, and a market more than 65% controlled by Facebook, with its main platform and Instagram – therefore a monopoly.

This is one of the most threatening issues for Meta, regularly accused, like its neighbors in Silicon Valley, of having a lot of economic, political and social power.

Its reputation deteriorated further in the fall due to the revelations of a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, a former engineer who leaked numerous internal documents. It has been hammered home in the US Congress and in European parliaments that the firm with some 3.5 billion monthly users put “profit before safety” for its users.

“It is impossible to say whether the FTC will be able to prove its allegations at trial,” the judge insisted on Tuesday. Meta did not immediately respond to a request from AFP.

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