Why Facebook has ended up in the crosshairs of the American antitrust

The recent victory of Facebook against the American antitrust turns the spotlight again on one of the great topical issues: the ineffectiveness of the US regulatory framework dedicated to the discipline of free competition and the prohibition of monopolistic practices . A structure that in fact appeared to be too anachronistic, full of paradoxes and contradictions that make it irreconcilable with the important issues highlighted by the technology industry.

The argument is very similar to the one that interested the oil industry giants several years ago, just as the approach to the problem is identical: limiting the excessive market power of companies (today the Big Tech), “fragmenting” their range of action through strict bans on large mergers and stringent interoperability requirements on which the US legislator is beginning to think. In short, the actors change (represented in today's context by the giants of the web, and Facebook is inevitably an integral part of these), but not the methods and potential remedies. On this basis the two lawsuits brought forward against the association represented by Mark Zuckerberg are thus justified, which turned into as many resounding victories for the American team, one of which is definitive.

The two antitrust lawsuits against Facebook

The pronouncement of magistrate James Boasberg rejected the accusations of anti-competitive practices to which Facebook had been called to respond: one was made directly by the federal government, through the Federal Trade Commission (the authority US antitrust), the other by a coalition made up of 46 American states. Moreover, the second even aimed to invalidate the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp made by Facebook in 2012 and 2014 respectively. : according to the prosecution, these operators have in fact contributed to increasing the dominant position of the Zuckerberg company. The first appeal is also of the same opinion: the anti-competitive attitude of Facebook would not only cause less choice on the part of consumers, but above all it would have the effect of concentrating in the hands of the same company American, to say the least, a mammoth amount of personal data, thus also recalling issues underlying privacy.

The proceeding ended with an articulated sentence of fifty-three pages that can be summarized in a few words: from the dossier presented by the plaintiffs, there is insufficient evidence capable of supporting the monopolistic and anti-competitive position hired by Facebook in recent years. Even more drastic is the conclusion on the purchase operation prepared by the giant led by Mark Zuckerberg: the alleged violations go back to events that have occurred too many years ago, consequently eliminating the time limits within which it is possible to bring legal actions of this type. .

For its part, the American company had set up its defenses by leveraging on two arguments: on the one hand, the presence on the market of various competing platforms (citing in particular TikTok ), on the other hand '' undetectable of the prejudice caused by Facebook to consumers, especially if you look at the free of its services.

Hence the rejection of the two appeals, with the second – that, that is, the one, that is, linked to the acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp – which is not subject to appeal and therefore definitive. The victory of Facebook in court had a specific weight that goes beyond mere juridicality: after the publication of the sentence, the stock price of the American company in fact, it exceeded 1 trillion dollars for the first time and entered the very narrow elite that can boast such a milestone (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Alphabet, that is the parent company of Google).

Future scenarios

The Federal Trade Commission has 30 days to appeal (the deadline coincides with the day of July 29) and there are already several political personalities pushing to continue the legal battle against Facebook : in a letter addressed to Lina Khan (head of the US FTC after the recent appointment received by President Joe Biden) and published last Friday by Reuters , Senator Amy Klobuchar and Colorado House of Representatives Ken Buch – figures belonging to the Democratic and Republican Party respectively – would have urged authority American antitrust to continue enforcement actions against the social network of Mark Zuckerberg.

For Lina Khan it will therefore be the first important commitment after the mandate received by the Biden administration, which intends to stem the excessive power of Big Tech . And the 32-year-old lawyer, formerly a law teacher at Columbia Law School, seems to be the ideal figure for an important change of course, also because of her openly critical positions towards the monopolistic attitude of the technology giants. A challenge that promises to be difficult at least in the immediate future, thanks to the tight timeframe to overturn the recent ruling of the Washington DC District Court In the interlude, the need to reformulate the current regulatory framework of the laws American antitrust, too anchored to the traditional logic of price manipulation and therefore inadequate with respect to the issue of monopoly abuse of Big Tech.

The object of the dispute is all about the word “ monopoly “, little used – at least as defined by American legislation – to demonstrate the anti-competitive attitude assumed by Facebook and, more in general, from Big Tech. It is not surprising, in this light, the package of six measures that the United States House of Representatives is working on, while Joe Biden – according to some sources collected by Reuters – would be working on an executive order with the aim of having a more prominent role in antitrust legislation, requiring more powers to federal agencies. We will see, however certain that the next few weeks will mark a crucial footprint on the issue of the Big Tech monopoly, increasingly at the center of global debates.