FTC Gets Extra Time To Beef Up Antitrust Case Against Facebook

A federal judge on Friday granted the Federal Trade Commission an extension of three weeks for the deadline to reformulate an antitrust complaint against Facebook.

The FTC now has until August 19 to amend its allegations against the social networking service.

The agency made the request Friday, stating in court papers filed with U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C. that the extension would provide enough time "to complete internal agency processes with respect to filing an amended complaint."

The FTC added that granting the request “will not burden or prejudice” Facebook, and is “consistent with the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of this action.”

Last month, Boasberg dismissed the FTC's antitrust complaint -- ruling that the agency's allegations, even if true, wouldn't prove that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for personal social networking services.



He gave the agency until July 29 to amend its allegations and bring them again. The FTC now says is asking to extend that deadline to August 19.

The agency originally sued Facebook last December for allegedly violating anti-monopoly laws. The complaint largely centered on the claim that Facebook suppressed competition by purchasing social-media service Instagram (acquired for $1 billion in 2012) and messaging service WhatsApp (bought for $19 billion in 2014).

Facebook countered that the allegations were "revisionist history," noting that the FTC allowed the company to purchase Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook also argued that the allegations, even if proven true, wouldn't show that the company obtained a monopoly in a “relevant market” or that it has monopoly power to harm competition and consumers in that market.

Boasberg sided with Facebook, writing that the allegations in the FTC's complaint “fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power.”

He said that while the FTC alleged that Facebook commands more than 60% of the personal social-networking market, the agency did not spell out how it arrived at that figure.

Boasberg wrote that he was “unable to understand exactly what the agency’s '60%-plus' figure is even referring to, let alone able to infer the underlying facts that might substantiate it.”

Boasberg noted in his opinion that the FTC didn't offer any metrics -- such as ad revenue or time spent on the service by users -- to explain the basis for its allegation that Facebook commands a market share greater than 60%.

After the decision came out, Facebook filed a petition with the FTC to disqualify Chair Lina Khan from participating in any decisions regarding the lawsuit.

Facebook argued that Khan “cannot meet any standard for neutrality” regarding the social networking service, given her prior advocacy in favor of aggressive antitrust enforcement, and her highly publicized statements criticizing large tech companies.

“When a new Commissioner has already drawn factual and legal conclusions and deemed the target a lawbreaker, due process requires that individual to recuse herself from related matters when acting in the capacity of an FTC Commissioner,” Facebook wrote.

The FTC hasn't yet formally responded to Facebook's petition.

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