A Federal Trade Commission lawsuit that could force Meta to sell both Instagram and WhatsApp can move forward, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The lawsuit claims Meta, the parent company of Facebook, violated antitrust laws and participated in "anti-competitive conduct" by buying or squashing rival companies, particularly in the case of its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC has argued that Meta should be restructured and possibly be required to sell off the acquired entities.
Responding to a request for dismissal by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said the FTC can move forward with its proceedings. Boasberg had previously dismissed an earlier attempt by the FTC to take antitrust action against the social media behemoth, but said the second lawsuit had "alleged enough facts to plausibly establish that Facebook exercises monopoly power."
Federal Trade Commission is urging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to sell both Instagram and Whatsapp. (Photo: Aaron Bernstein via Reuters)" data-caption="The Federal Trade Commission is urging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to sell both Instagram and Whatsapp. (Photo: Aaron Bernstein via Reuters)" data-rich-caption="The Federal Trade Commission is urging Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to sell both Instagram and Whatsapp. (Photo: Aaron Bernstein via Reuters)" data-credit="Aaron Bernstein via Reuters" data-credit-link-back="" />
"Ultimately, whether the FTC will be able to prove its case and prevail at summary judgment and trial is anyone's guess," Boasberg said in the ruling. "The court declines to engage in such speculation and simply concludes that at this motion-to-dismiss stage, where the FTC's allegations are treated as true, the agency has stated a plausible claim for relief."
In response to the ongoing lawsuit, a Meta spokesperson said the company is "confident the evidence will reveal the fundamental weakness of the claims" and argued that its investment in both Instagram and WhatsApp "transformed them into what they are today."
The FTC's bureau of competition director, Holly Vedova, said in a statement that the agency "presented a strong amended complaint" and was looking forward to trial.
Facebook rebranded as Meta in October and has faced multiple political and legal challenges in recent months. In December, a number of U.S. senators sent a letter to Zuckerberg regarding Meta's role in protecting democracy, including upcoming elections, from misinformation.
The senators accused Facebook of playing a significant role in the spread of "divisive, hateful, and violent online activity" during the 2020 presidential election. The letter also stated that "nearly a quarter of Facebook users reported seeing hate speech ahead of the election and that more than half reported seeing content that made them wary of discussing political issues in public."
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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