U.S. Fires Back at Facebook’s Move to Kill Monopoly Lawsuit

The Federal Trade Commission urged the judge handling the agency’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook Inc. to reject the social-media company’s request to dismiss it.

The suit initiated last year under the Trump administration makes a valid claim that Facebook holds monopoly power over personal social networking in the U.S. and maintains it by “acquiring competitive threats and deterring or hindering the emergence of rivals,” the FTC said in a filing late Wednesday in Washington federal court.

The FTC’s request is the latest exchange at the start of a high-stakes battle over Facebook’s future -- its attempt to hold onto Instagram and WhatsApp and to defeat the government’s attempt to force a breakup. The filing is a response to Facebook’s argument last month that the FTC is attempting a “do-over” by trying to unwind acquisitions that won regulatory approval years ago.

The FTC argues that Facebook is trying to get the fight thrown out “before it even begins.” The company’s “repeated observation” that the agency could have challenged the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions earlier is irrelevant, according to the filing.

“Congress has explicitly provided that the FTC need not challenge an acquisition at its first opportunity to do so,” the FTC said in the filing. “Instead, the FTC can challenge an acquisition at any time, under any provision of law.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James is leading a similar antitrust lawsuit filed by U.S. states. In a filing opposing Facebook’s request for dismissal of that case, James argued that the company’s conduct harmed hundreds of millions of the states’ residents

The case is Federal Trade Commission v. Facebook, 20-cv-03590, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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