Timeline on Monopoly Lawsuit Regarding Social Networking

The Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook in 2020 for monopolizing the personal social networking market. Filed in the waning days of the Trump Administration, the FTC complaint was joined by a similar lawsuit brought by 48 State Attorneys General. While both complaints were initially dismissed by a federal judge, the court allowed the FTC to file an amended complaint, and the case is now proceeding to discovery.

The FTC alleges that Facebook buys up rivals and uses its dominance to suppress competitors it can’t acquire. The complaint directly quotes Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying “it is better to buy than compete.” The suit alleges that during the rise of mobile apps in the early 2010s, Facebook identified Instagram as a threat and tried to outcompete the app “on the merits.” But after realizing Facebook couldn’t produce a better product, it moved to buy Instagram instead. Around the same time, the FTC alleges that Facebook worried that mobile messaging platform WhatsApp could “break into” the social networking market and threaten its monopoly. After determining WhatsApp was “the biggest threat we’ve ever faced as a company,” the suit says, Facebook targeted it for acquisition as well.

In its initial complaint, the FTC alleged that Facebook also restricted access to key parts of its platform from third party apps, preventing them from competing with Facebook on core functions or working with rival social media networks. However, those particular claims have been dismissed by a federal judge.

The FTC is asking the Court to order Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp and to require the firm to seek prior approval for any further acquisitions.

FTC Suit

December 9

FTC Sues

The FTC sues Facebook for monopolizing social networking.

March 10

Facebook Asks for Dismissal

Facebook asks the Court to dismiss the antitrust lawsuit against it, saying the FTC didn’t provide sufficient metrics and lacked enough evidence to back up its claims.

June 28

Initial Complaint Dismissed

The Court grants Facebook’s motion to dismiss the case, agreeing that the FTC did not provide sufficient markets definition for its monopoly claims. The Court gives the FTC one month to amend its complaint and refile.

August 19

FTC Files Amended Complaint

The FTC strengthens its allegations. The agency’s claims remain largely the same, but the new complaint adds additional metrics and evidence, clarifying the market Facebook operates in as well as which firms are and aren’t its competitors.

January 11

Amended Suit Proceeds

A federal judge rejects Facebook’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint, finding the updated allegations plausible and ushering the case towards a trial.

February 23

Discovery Disagreements

Discovery, the process both sides of a lawsuit use to request information from each other about evidence that will be used at trial, proves contentious. The FTC and Facebook duel over depositions, documents, and potential trial dates.

February 28

Discovery Deadline Set

While declining to set a trial date, the Court imposes a May 2023 deadline for the close of discovery.

March 3

Scheduling Order & Bifurcation

The Court decides to split up the trial into two phases: first, a jury will determine whether Facebook broke the law; if so, remedies will then be determined.

August 4

Sensitive Subpoenas

Facebook demands sensitive information from competitors like Twitter, TikTok, and Snap, who balk. Snap accuses Facebook of “fishing” and asks the court to block the requests.

September 6

Difficult Discovery Continues

A federal judge denies Facebook access to privileged FTC reviews of Facebook’s acquisitions, saying the FTC has already provided necessary information.

May 22

Fact Discovery Ends

Discovery, the process by which both sides of a lawsuit request information and documents from each other and question witnesses under oath about evidence that will be used at trial, closes.

January 5

Expert Discovery

Close of expert discovery, 45 days after final expert reports are filed. Expert discovery is the period of time when parties exchange expert reports and depose each other’s experts. In antitrust cases, expert reports usually relate to the economic impact of the defendant’s anti-competitive conduct.