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Judge Grants FTC More Time to File Amended Complaint Against Facebook

July 26, 2021 by Dan McCue
Lina Khan of the Federal Trade Commission. (Graeme Jennings/Pool Washington via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Friday gave the U.S. Federal Trade Commission until Aug. 19 to file an amended complaint in its antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.

In a filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the agency asked for a three-week extension to amend a lawsuit the court dismissed last month. 

In making the request, the FTC said it had reached an agreement with Facebook over the proposed extension.

“The requested extension will provide sufficient time for the plaintiff to complete internal agency processes with respect to filing an amended complaint,” the FTC said in its filing.

“Plaintiff shall file an amended complaint by Aug. 19, 2021,” U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote in his brief order Friday, adding that Facebook should respond to the amended complaint by Oct. 4.

Last month, Judge Boasberg skewered the core argument made by the FTC, saying prosecutors had failed to provide enough persuasive facts to back up the claim — that Facebook holds a monopoly over social networking. 

“It is almost as if the agency expects the court to simply nod to the conventional wisdom that Facebook is a monopolist,” Boasberg wrote.

The same day Boasberg also tossed a lawsuit filed by a group of state attorneys general, saying they’d waited too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisition of the photo-sharing service Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp, which the company bought in 2012 and 2014, respectively. 

But the judge gave the FTC a 30-day window to refile its lawsuit, and implied the agency could take up the concerns of the attorneys general concerning the Instagram and WhatsApp acquisitions, if it chooses to do so.

Facebook did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

The FTC voted 3-2 in December 2020 to file the lawsuit against Facebook.

The chair at the time, Joe Simons, a Republican, voted for the lawsuit. Since then, the agency chair changed to Lina Khan, a Democrat and long time critic of Facebook, Google and Amazon.

The new lawsuit will be the first major action by Khan in her role of FTC chair. Facebook has asked for her to be recused because of her prior work with a congressional panel scrutinizing the industry and her past calls for breaking up the digital platforms.

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