Nearly forty states on Friday asked a federal appeals court to reconsider an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook that was rejected by a judge last year.
In June, Judge James E. Boasberg of the US District Court for the District of Columbia said states had waited too long after making some scrutiny deals to file the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, led by Attorney General Letitia James of New York and including the District of Columbia and Guam, argued in their appeal that states have more freedom than special prosecutors when they file lawsuits. They also argued that it was in the public’s best interest for prosecutors to pursue antitrust complaints against Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
The central claim of the states is that Facebook acquired competitors – notably Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 – in a predatory manner, in order to crush the competition. They also argue that Facebook has harmed competitors like Vine by preventing them from accessing data and tools on its platform. The states claim this has hurt consumers, who have been denied more competition and alternative services in social media networks.
“Time and again, the social media giant has used its market dominance to force small businesses out of business and reduce competition for millions of users,” Ms James said. “We are making this appeal with the support of nearly every state in the country because we will always fight efforts to stifle competition, reduce innovation, and lower privacy protections, even when we’re up against someone like Facebook.”
“We believe that the district court’s decision to dismiss the states’ complaint was correct, and that there are no grounds to overturn that decision,” said Meta spokesperson Chris Sjore.
Legal pressure against Meta has intensified in recent days. The states’ appeal comes days after Mr. Boasberg allowed a revised version of a similar antitrust lawsuit to be issued by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has argued that the company used a “buy or bury” strategy in its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp to create a monopoly in social networks.
Mr. Boasberg was initially skeptical of both claims, but for different reasons. He said federal regulators had not provided enough evidence to support some of his core assertions, such as Facebook’s monopoly. This week, he said, those regulators had removed that tape in an amended lawsuit.