The latest ruling by a federal judge is a milestone for the effort to regulate Big Tech.
On Tuesday, federal judge James E. Boasberg ruled that the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to break up Facebook could move forward. The case itself is far from decided. But by blessing the FTC’s theory that a monopoly can harm consumers even when its product is free, the judge has signaled that Facebook—and other tech platforms—are not invincible.
It’s a big turnaround from last summer. In June, Boasberg, a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, granted Facebook’s motion to dismiss the case. (The company has since rebranded itself as Meta Platforms, but Facebook remains the named defendant.) The problem, he held, was that the FTC—which is seeking to reverse Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp—hadn’t provided any evidence that the company was a monopoly. But in that same ruling, Boasberg gave a clear blueprint for how to revive the case. All the government had to do was provide evidence that Facebook has a dominant share of the social networking market.
Two months later, the agency filed a new complaint stuffed with data points from Comscore, an analytics firm that Facebook itself uses, suggesting that the company dominates the market under a variety of metrics: daily active users, monthly active users, and user time spent. The new evidence seems to have impressed Boasberg. “In short,” he writes in the latest ruling, “the FTC has done its homework this time around.”
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