Source: Stephen Lam/Reuters
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  • A US judge has rejected federal and state antitrust complaints against Facebook, which sought to force the sale of Instagram and WhatsApp
  • Judge James Boasberg said the Federal Trade Commission failed to show that Facebook had monopoly power within the social-networking market
  • The FTC can re-file the complaint by July 29 in an attempt to fix the issues with its claim
  • Five lawsuits were filed last year against both Facebook and Alphabet’s Google in an effort to rein in alleged abuses of their massive market power
  • Facebook’s shares rose more than four per cent, tipping its market capitalisation over the US$1 trillion (A$1.32 trillion) mark for the first time

A US judge rejected federal and state antitrust complaints against Facebook on Monday, which sought to force the tech giant to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

Following the ruling, Facebook’s shares rose more than four per cent, tipping its market capitalisation over the US$1 trillion (A$1.32 trillion) mark for the first time.

It’s the first big blow to state and federal lawsuits that were filed against Big Tech companies last year in an effort to rein in alleged abuses of their massive market power.

Judge James Boasberg, of the US District Court for the District of Columbia, said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) failed to show that Facebook had monopoly power within the social-networking market but said it could file a new complaint by July 29.

He also dismissed a lawsuit by several states, arguing they had waited too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram for US$1 billion (A$1.32 billion) in 2012 and WhatsApp for US$19 billion (A$25.12 billion) in 2014.

“Although the court does not agree with all of Facebook’s contentions here, it ultimately concurs that the agency’s complaint is legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed,” Judge Boasberg said.

A spokesperson for the New York Attorney General’s office said it was “considering our legal options”.

It wasn’t a total loss for the FTC, however, with Judge Boasberg adding that the agency was “on firmer ground in scrutinising the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, as the court rejects Facebook’s argument that the FTC lacks authority to seek injunctive relief against those purchases”.

A total of five lawsuits were filed last year against both Facebook and Alphabet’s Google following bipartisan outrage over their social media dominance in the economic and political spheres.

Judge Boasberg said the FTC did not adequately support its claim that Facebook holds more than 60 per cent of the market, but said it could potentially fix the issue in a refiling.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley criticised the court’s decision as “deeply disappointing”.

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