Rigettata (per ora) la domanda antitrust della FTC statunitense contro Facebook

Leggo in post odierno del prof. Hovenkamp su promarket.org che sono state rigettate le domande giudiziali della FTC Federal Trade Commission  e degli Attorney General statali separatamente presentate contro Faceook: v. sentenze 28 giugno 2021 reperibili qui e rispettivamente qui (link forniti dal cit. post dell’illustre studioso).

La censura si appunta sulla misurazione del market share:

<<Even accepting that merely alleging market share “in excess of 60%” might sometimes be acceptable, it cannot suffice in this context, where Plaintiff does not even allege what it is measuring. Indeed, in its Opposition the FTC expressly contends that it need not “specify which . . . metrics . . . [or] ‘method’ [it] used to calculate Facebook’s [market] share.” FTC Opp. at 18.  In a case involving a more typical goods market, perhaps the Court might be able to reasonably infer how Plaintiff arrived at its calculations e.g., by proportion of total revenue or of units  sold. See U.S. Dep’t of Justice & FTC, Horizontal Merger Guidelines § 5.2 (2010) (suggesting these to be the typical methods). As the above marketdefinition analysis underscores, however, the market at issue here is unusual in a number of ways, including that the products therein are not sold for a price, meaning that PSN services earn no direct revenue from users. The Court is thus unable to understand exactly what the agency’s 60%plus figure is even referring to, let alone able to infer the underlying facts that might substantiate it.  

Rather than undergirding any inference of market power, Plaintiff’s allegations make it even less clear what the agency might be measuring. The overall revenues earned by PSN services cannot be the right metric for measuring market share here, as those revenues are all earned in a separate market viz., the market for advertising. See Redacted Compl., ¶ 164; see also, e.g., id., ¶ 101 (noting that prior to its acquisition, in addition to competing in the PSN services market, “Instagram also planned and expected to be an important advertising competitor” to Facebook). Percent of “daily users [or] monthly users” of PSN services metrics the Complaint mentions offhandedly, see Redacted Compl., ¶¶ 3, 97 are not much better, as they might significantly overstate or understate any one firm’s market share depending on the various proportions of users who have accounts on multiple services, not to mention how  often users visit each service and for how long>> (v. a p. 28-29).

Ottimista (dal punto di vista della FTC) ciò nonostante  è il post 19 luglio del prof. Newman su promarket.org.

L’antitrust USA ora agisce contro Facebook

Dopo aver promosso azione contro Google (v. mio post del 28.10.2020, US contro Google: partita l’azione antitrust) , gli Stati Uniti ora agiscono pure verso Facebook.

La Federal Trade Commission  FTC ieri ha depositato l’atto indtroduttivo contro Facebook per illegal monopolization. V. la notizia nel sito di FTC e qui il link al testo completo (con qualche omissis) del ricorso introduttivo datato 09.12.2020 .

Sostanzialmente sono ravvisati due tipi di condotte anticoncorrenziali: le acquisizioni di potenziali concorrenti e pratiche escludenti per l’accesso alle API’s.

Il primo tipo consiste soprattutto nell’acquisizione di Instagram e Whatsapp,

Il secondo prevedeva clausole anticompetitive per accedere alle sue interconnessioni, application programming interfaces (“APIs”),  con cui devono interagire le applicazioni di terze parti (<<the imposition and enforcement of anticompetitive conditions on access to APIs in order to suppress and deter competitive threats to its personal social networking monopoly>>, § 71.c).   Precisamente <<in order to communicate with Facebook (i.e., send data to Facebook Blue, or retrieve data from Facebook Blue) third-party apps must use Facebook APIs. For many years— and continuously until a recent suspension under the glare of international antitrust and regulatory scrutiny—Facebook has made key APIs available to third-party apps only on the condition that they refrain from providing the same core functions that Facebook offers, including through Facebook Blue and Facebook Messenger, and from connecting with or promoting other social networks>> (§ 23, p. 8).                Analiticamente sub D.1, al § 138 ss.

Il documento è interessante. Si v. ad es. il § sul business model di Facebook, IV.B, § 43 ss , p. 12 ss: <<while there are other ways in which personal social networking could be monetized, Facebook has chosen to monetize its businesses by selling advertising that is displayed to users based on the personal data about their lives that Facebook collects>>.

Si v. poi il petitum finale (p. 51-2, soprattutto il punto B):

A- that Facebook’s course  of  conduct,  as  alleged  herein,  violates  Section  2  of  the  Sherman Act and thus constitutes an unfair method of competition in violation of Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. § 45(a);

B – divestiture of assets, divestiture or reconstruction of businesses (including, but not limited to, Instagram and/or WhatsApp), and such other relief sufficient to restore the competition that  would  exist  absent  the  conduct  alleged  in  the  Complaint,  including, to the extent reasonably necessary, the provision of ongoing support or services from Facebook to one or more viable and independent business(es);

C – any other equitable relief necessary to restore competition and remedy the harm to competition caused by Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct described above;

D – a prior notice and prior approval obligation for future mergers and acquisitions; 51

E – that Facebook is permanently enjoined from imposing anticompetitive conditions on access to APIs and data;

F – that Facebook is  permanently  enjoined  from  engaging  in  the  unlawful  conduct  described herein;

G – that Facebook is permanently enjoined from engaging in similar or related conduct in the future;

H – a requirement to file periodic compliance reports with the FTC, and to submit to such reporting and monitoring obligations as may be reasonable and appropriate; and

 I – any other equitable relief, including, but not limited to, divestiture or restructuring, as the Court  finds  necessary  to  redress  and  prevent  recurrence  of  Facebook’s  violations of law, as alleged herein

Si lamenta però, verso l’azione antirust de qua, che da un lato anche senza Instagram e Whatsapp , FB conserverà un notevole data advantage; dall’altro, che l’azione stessa non si cura di dare un maggiore controllo agli utenti sui propri dati (così Stucke M.E. , Why Isn’t the FTC Tackling Facebook’s Data-opoly?, promarket.org, 05.01.2021).