Facebook lands the first punch
To be honest, I’m not sure who the good guys are in this one. I do, however, know what side I’m betting on.
The US government’s attempt to throttle Facebook — and by extension all of Big Tech (Broadly speaking, Facebook, Alphabet, Twitter and Microsoft) — took a hit yesterday when federal judge dismissed an antitrust lawsuits brought against Facebook by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of state attorneys general.
Antitrust law in the United States is designed to protect consumers from monopolies, which are the antithesis of neo-liberal capitalism. However, some critics say that they are largely toothless and that large, monied businesses will always have the upper hand.
Should this matter to you if you are not American? Well, these companies are based there and the US is still an economic driver in the world’s economy, so if you have an interest in either the companies themselves, or in a strong world economy, then…yes. Yes, it should.
Arguments that the antitrust laws aren’t all that strong was underlined by the decision. In it, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg wrote that the lawsuits were “legally insufficient” and didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that Facebook was a monopoly.
The ruling dismisses the complaint but not the case, meaning the FTC could refile another complaint.
“These allegations — which do not even provide an estimated actual figure or range for Facebook’s market share at any point over the past ten years — ultimately fall short of plausibly establishing that Facebook holds market power,” the judge stressed in his ruling.
As I said, however, I’m not sure if there is a good guy in this. There is little doubt that Facebook has become very powerful and not just as a business. It has far reaching influence, as does all of the Big Tech companies.
That makes governments uncomfortable. So, you can see this suit as being nothing more than another attempt by politicians to hold onto control.
Politicians with too much power scare me. They should scare you too.
That said, the idea behind antitrust laws is worthwhile. We do need competition in the marketplace. It drives innovation and ensures that we, as consumers, have the ability to shop for what is best for us — whether that’s on a price front or a service front.
And, you can make the argument, we aren’t being all that served by the tech sector right now.
So, I don’t know who the good guys are in this thing.
I do know that the government is likely to try again though as taking on Big Tech is popular, particularly among the Democrats base voter. There’s a very important election in just 17 months. In that context, winning the case is less important than fighting it.