The state lawsuit was signed by attorneys general from 46 states and the District of Columbia and Guam. Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota were not involved in the incident.
Facebook asked the court to dismiss both lawsuits in March. The company argues that it is constantly challenged by competition, including from newcomers like TikTok. It also argues that regulators have failed to demonstrate how the services, which are free, harm consumers. The judge’s dismissal of both lawsuits so early left Facebook executives and regulators stunned.
The judge, James E. Boasberg of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, wondered why the states had waited so long to try to shorten Facebook’s deals for Instagram and WhatsApp. Regulators did not try to block them when they happened. He also denied accusations that Facebook squelched rival apps by blocking their ability to interact easily with the social media platform.
“Ultimately, this antitrust action is based on well-known, public conduct, nearly all of which occurred over six years ago,” he wrote, “before the launch of the Apple Watch or Alexa or Periscope, when Kevin Durant still plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder and when Ebola was the virus dominated the headlines. “
Judge Boasberg, who was appointed to the incumbent by President Barack Obama, said the FTC was not enough to prove that Facebook was a monopoly. He said the agency’s definition of social networking was too vague, and in reference to the popular interpretation of antitrust law in the courts based on consumer prices, he noted that the product was free.
“It appears that the agency hopes the court will nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist,” he wrote. “After all, no one who’s heard the title of the 2010 movie ‘The Social Network’ will wonder which company it’s about.”
However, he said, “‘monopoly power’ is an artistic term under federal law with a precise economic connotation.”