The FTC may have narrowed down the time frame for an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook. Politico sources claim the Commission is “likely” to sue Facebook before November is over. It might not be the quick, public legal battle some would hope for, though. Officials are reportedly leaning toward an “internal” case that would put the matter in front of an administrative law judge rather than letting states join in. That would increase the chances of a successful action, but could also involve a years-long process.
Facebook and the FTC have declined to comment, although Facebook has previously disputed allegations of being anti-competitive.
The long-in-the-works suit is expected to accuse Facebook of using acquisitions and control over data to squelch competition. It won’t necessarily force the company to offload Instagram or WhatsApp. Those are options, however, when officials have argued that much has changed since the FTC slapped Facebook with a privacy order in 2012. In addition to its major purchases, Facebook paid a $5 billion fine for allegedly violating the FTC order due to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
Talk of an impending lawsuit comes as the US government has been cracking down on other tech giants, including a DOJ lawsuit against Google.
It’s not clear if any Facebook-oriented lawsuit would stay on its original path. Now that Joe Biden is expected to become the next President, any shift in FTC leadership could change the speed and process of legal action. It’s no secret that Democrats (including VP-elect Kamala Harris) are open to breaking up Facebook, and that might be reflected in their antitrust policy.