When the nation’s antitrust laws were created more than a century ago, they were aimed at taking on industries such as Big Oil.
But technology giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, which dominate e-commerce, social networks, online advertising and search, have risen in ways unforeseen by the laws. In recent decades, the courts have also interpreted the rules more narrowly.
On Monday, a pair of rulings dismissing federal and state antitrust lawsuits against Facebook renewed questions about whether the laws were suited to taking on tech power. A federal judge threw out the federal suit because, he said, the Federal Trade Commission had not supported its claims that Facebook holds a dominant market share, and he said the states had waited too long to make their case.
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The battle to break up Big Tech has just begun: For antitrust reformers, Facebook’s court win might not be the setback it would seem.
In just a few years, “break up Big Tech” has gone from a radical slogan to a multipronged, mainstream policy movement with bipartisan support. Two of the progressive legal minds who sparked it, Lina Khan and Tim Wu, are now highly placed in the Biden administration. Dramatic antitrust reform legislation is wending through Congress. The federal government has sued Google and Facebook for monopolization and has been scrutinizing Amazon and Apple. (Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, is the founder and chief executive of Amazon.)
Of course, Big Tech was never going to go down without a fight. The past week, capped by a stinging court rebuke Monday of the government’s case against Facebook, has revealed just how far the nascent antitrust-reform movement has to go to achieve its most ambitious goals. But it has also clarified the path forward for today’s trustbusters, with District Judge James E. Boasberg’s dismissive ruling handing them both a road map and a fresh tank of fuel.
Boom Times for Lawyers as Washington Pursues Big Tech
Lawyers at Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick, a top corporate law firm, were abuzz on Monday as they grappled with a federal judge’s rulings about antitrust cases related to their client: Facebook.
Last month, lawyers at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, one of the country’s elite law firms, advised Amazon over its acquisition of MGM, which is facing antitrust scrutiny from regulators.
The mounting legal and regulatory scrutiny facing Big Tech has led to a wave of lawsuits, investigations and proposed legislation aimed at ending the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Whether those efforts succeed may take years to sort out, but there is already one clear winner: the nation’s legal industry.