US judge dismisses antitrust lawsuits against Facebook

A judge has dismissed two antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, one filed by the Federal Trade Commission and another by a coalition of US states, dealing a significant blow to regulators and sending the company’s share price to record levels.

In an opinion on Monday dismissing the FTC’s complaint, Judge James Boasberg in the federal district court in Washington DC said that the agency’s lawsuit was “legally insufficient”. 

In particular, the judge found that the FTC had “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish” that Facebook has monopoly power over the market for personal social networking services.

However, the judge said that the FTC would have 30 days to file a new complaint if it wished.

By contrast, Boasberg dismissed entirely a similar case pursued by group of 46 states and two other jurisdictions — led by New York attorney-general Letitia James — on the basis that any alleged violations took place too long ago.

The judgment deals a big setback to regulators, who in December accused the company of anti-competitive conduct, including strategically buying up rivals that threatened its monopoly power and cutting off services to squeeze rival developers.

The FTC said at the time that it was seeking penalties including a forced break-up of Facebook from Instagram and WhatsApp, acquisitions it made in 2012 and 2014 respectively. 

Facebook’s share price jumped more than 4 per cent on the news to a high of $357.36, with it surpassing a $1tn market capitalisation for the first time.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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