The great Facebook breakup, it seems, is not to be. At least not yet.
It was only in late December that the Federal Trade Commission alleged in a lawsuit that Facebook was a monopoly and that it deserved to be broken up into its constituent parts of Instagram and WhatsApp. The complaint, backed by attorneys general from 48 states, was dismissed Monday by a federal court.
At the heart of the court’s decision Monday is the argument that the FTC failed to conclusively make its case.
“The FTC has failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish a necessary element of all of its Section 2 claims — namely, that Facebook has monopoly power in the market for Personal Social Networking (PSN) Services,” reads the decision.
Monday’s ruling effectively lets Facebook off the hook for what the FTC called “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.”
Sarah Miller, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, a nonprofit anti-monopoly lobbying group, argued that the FTC and the attorneys general need to step up their respective games in light of Monday’s decision.
“The coalition of state attorneys general should appeal today’s decision and the Federal Trade Commission should quickly submit an amended complaint,” she wrote in a statement to the press.
We reached out to Facebook for comment on Monday’s decision, and in response the company made it clear it’s delighted by the news.
“We are pleased that today’s decisions recognize the defects in the government complaints filed against Facebook,” responded a Facebook spokesperson in a prepared statement.
Which, of course Facebook is pleased. One substantial but ultimately insignificant fine notwithstanding, Facebook has a long history of avoiding real consequences for its many missteps — be they accidental or otherwise.
While Monday’s decision continues Facebook’s long winning streak — and everyone else’s losing one — all hope is not lost.
The court notably dismissed the specific complaint, not the case itself. In other words, the FTC can plead its case again. Hopefully it does so, and next time comes better prepared.