Facebook asks US court to dismiss antitrust case to force sale of Instagram and WhatsApp

Facebook argues there is ‘no valid factual basis’ for branding it an ‘unlawful monopolist’

Vishwam Sankaran
Tuesday 05 October 2021 08:57 BST

Facebook Inc filed a motion on Monday asking a US court to dismiss the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust case against the company, which seeks to force it to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

The motion was filed on the same day the company’s platforms experienced a six-hour-long global outage that may cost the world economy nearly $1bn according to some estimates.

In its argument, the social media giant said there was “no valid factual basis” for branding the company an “unlawful monopolist”, and added that the Federal Trade Commission’s August complaint relied on “guesswork rather than facts.”

Facebook asked that the lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice, adding that the case was “entirely without legal or factual support.”

The latest lawsuit is an amended version of the case filed by the Federal Trade Commission, which Facebook won in June by arguing that it is not a monopoly and that it faces intense competition from the likes of TikTok “and scores of other attractive options for consumers.”

In the new version, the FTC has argued that Facebook should not be compared to public-facing apps like TikTok and YouTube, but instead with rivals like Snapchat, which has fewer monthly users than Facebook or Instagram.

By asking for the new case to be dismissed with prejudice, Facebook seeks to prevent further amendments to the lawsuit.

Citing TikTok’s recent rise, the social media giant argued in its motion that the FTC’s new argument was “at odds with the commercial reality of intense competition”.

The motion came the day the company’s various platforms, including Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, experienced a six-hour outage, which it said was due to configuration changes made to its routers.

“This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centres communicate, bringing our services to a halt,” the company noted in a blog post on Tuesday.

Policymakers such as New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, took to Twitter to suggest that Facebook owning Instagram and WhatsApp contributed to Monday’s global communication blackout across these platforms.

On Monday, Frances Haugen, a data scientist and former employee, also revealed herself to be the whistleblower scheduled to testify before US Congress about the company’s own internal research showing that it prioritised profits over users’ safety.

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