Facebook says the antitrust lawsuits targeting the company’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp should be dismissed. The company issued its first official response to antitrust charges from the Federal Trade Commission and 46 state attorneys general, saying that the government was seeking a “do-over.” Facebook filed motions to dismiss both cases.
In a statement, the company said neither lawsuit had made a credible case for antitrust. “Antitrust laws are intended to promote competition and protect consumers,” Facebook wrote. “These complaints do not credibly claim that our conduct harmed either.” The response comes three months after the company was hit with antitrust charges from the FTC and the state attorneys general.
Both cases allege that Facebook has engaged in anti-competitive behavior and that its deals to acquire Instagram and WhatsApp were meant to neutralize companies it saw as a threat. Facebook said this amounted to a do-over as both acquisitions were scrutinized, and approved, by the FTC years ago.
In a new court filing, Facebook’s lawyers say that the FTC “has not alleged facts amounting to a plausible antitrust case,” and that the charges come amid a “fraught environment of relentless criticism of Facebook for matters entirely unrelated to antitrust concerns.” Regarding the case from state AGs, Facebook says that the states “lack standing to bring the case” and that they “waited far too long to act.” In its motion to dismiss the state charges, Facebook referred to the states’ case as “afterthought claims.”
In addition to its acquisitions, both cases also pointed to Facebook’s platform policies, and how it treated third-party developers. The state case and the FTC lawsuit both called out Facebook’s treatment of Twitter-owned Vine, which saw its access to Facebook’s API cut off in 2013 in a decision that was approved by Mark Zuckerberg. In its motion to dismiss the FTC case, Facebook lawyers said the company “had no duty to make its platform available to any other app.”
The FTC and the state AGs have until April to respond to Facebook’s motions to dismiss. As The Wall Street Journal points out, actually getting the charges dismissed before a trial requires Facebook to “meet a high legal standard” that may be difficult to clear. Even if it did, a dismissal would hardly be the end of Facebook’s antitrust woes. The company is also facing an antitrust investigation from Congress and regulators in the European Union.