Actually, the Antitrust Case Against Facebook Is Very Much Alive | WIRED

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Actually, the Antitrust Case Against Facebook Is Very Much Alive

You may have heard about how the government’s effort to break up Facebook was dealt a death blow by a federal judge on Monday. Per The New York Times, the case was “thrown out,” in a “stunning setback.” As The Washington Post put it, the ruling “handed Facebook a major victory.” One Wall Street Journal reporter summed up the mood by noting on Twitter, “Hard to overstate the blow Facebook landed here.”

But according to several antitrust experts I’ve spoken with, overstatement is precisely the way to describe these news reports. Yes, Monday was a good day for Facebook, whose market cap briefly cracked $1 trillion on the strength of the news. The company had been facing parallel cases filed in December: one by the Federal Trade Commission, the other by a coalition of 46 states, plus Guam and the District of Columbia. On Monday, Judge James E. Boasberg dismissed the states’ case in its entirety, primarily because he found they had waited too long to bring it. That’s a big deal. But, for weird legal reasons that we won’t get into, the timing problem doesn’t apply to the federal government. And so the heart of the FTC’s legal effort—which seeks to force Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp—is still very much alive. It wasn’t thrown out, it was just sent back to the kitchen. Boasberg has given the FTC, under newly appointed chair Lina Khan, 30 days to beef up the parts of its complaint that he found lacking in evidence. Assuming it chooses to refile the case, there’s good reason to think the agency will be able to meet the challenge.

“I think they can go into sufficient detail to overcome a motion to dismiss, going forward,” said Roger Alford, a law professor at Notre Dame who served in the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice during the Trump administration. “Because I think the evidence will be there.”

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