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Antitrust: Facebook wins round against US authorities

A US judge has inflicted a setback on the country’s authorities who accused Facebook of anti-competitive practices by dismissing complaints filed in late 2020 on Monday, pushing the social network above $ 1,000 billion in market capitalization for the first time.
The American competition authority (FTC) and prosecutors representing 48 states and territories believed that Facebook was abusing its dominant position and its well-filled coffers to oust competition. In particular, it asked the courts to force the company to shut itself down. Separate from Instagram and WhatsApp.

But according to Judge James Boasberg, “the FTC failed to present enough facts to plausibly establish” that the group had monopoly power over social media.

The agency’s complaint “says almost nothing concrete on the key issue of Facebook’s real power (…), it’s almost as if the agency expects the court to quietly approve the widespread idea according to which Facebook is a monopoly “, notes the magistrate in his argument.

Regarding the allegations made by the attorneys general against Facebook’s takeovers of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, the judge considered that filed in 2020; they were far too late.

He further claimed that the policy of Facebook preventing the transfer of data to competing apps like Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat was not against competition laws.

The social network welcomed these decisions, which “recognize the flaws of the government complaints filed against Facebook.”

“We compete fairly with other companies every day to gain people’s time and attention,” said a spokesperson.

On Wall Street, Mark Zuckerberg’s action ended in stride up 4.2%, exceeding the symbolic threshold of 1,000 billion dollars in capitalization for the first time.

– Door open –
The judge, however, leaves a door open. If he rejects the attorney’s general’s complaint entirely, he gives the FTC thirty days to present new documents to support his accusations more precisely.

These decisions come when the American authorities raise their voice against Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the famous Gafa.

Other lawsuits have been launched in recent months against Google for abuse of a dominant position, and numerous investigations into the Gafa are still ongoing.

American elected officials are also determined to attack the omnipotence of these giants: a parliamentary committee last week approved several bills seeking, among other things, to force Facebook to let its users leave the social network by taking them with them. Their contacts and personal information with a competitor.

It is also planned to prohibit the colossi of the tech from acquiring competitors to preserve their market power.

These texts still have to go through the House of Representatives, with a Democratic majority, then through the Senate, where their fate is uncertain.

The judge’s decisions “underline the urgent need to modernize our antitrust laws to fight against anti-competitive mergers and abusive behavior in the digital economy,” reacted Democratic parliamentarians Jerrold Nadler and David Cicilline.

They promise to work in the coming weeks to advance the texts of the parliamentary committee “to restore choice, innovation, and opportunities for all American businesses and consumers.”

The group had filed motions in March to dismiss the FTC and attorneys’ general complaints, arguing that the FTC investigation “completely ignored the reality of the vibrant and ultra-competitive high-tech industry in the United States. within which Facebook operates “.

In addition to forcing Facebook to resell Instagram and WhatsApp, the agency wanted the group to stop forcing developers to agree to certain conditions and ask it for its green light for any takeover operation.

Similar anti-competitive accusations were launched at the end of the 1990s against the computer group Microsoft. After nearly three years of proceedings, the Ministry of Justice had failed to dismantle the firm.

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