Facebook is seeking the recusal of the Federal Trade Commission’s chairperson Lina Khan from the ongoing anti-competitive case against the social media giant.
In a statement to Android Central, a Facebook spokesperson said that Khan has consistently made “well-documented statements about Facebook and antitrust matters that would lead any reasonable observer to conclude that she has prejudged the Facebook antitrust case brought by the FTC.”
“To protect the fairness and impartiality of these proceedings, we have requested that Chair Khan recuse herself from involvement with the FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook,” the spokesperson said.
The antitrust lawsuits were filed late last year by the FTC and a coalition of state attorney generals, declaring that Facebook participated in anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior by purchasing WhatsApp and Instagram, two of the best Android apps. The complaint stated that Facebook saw the apps as “two significant competitive threats to its dominant position,” after which it “moved to squelch those threats by buying the companies.”
The lawsuits were dropped by a U.S. district judge in late June stating that the complaint is “legally insufficient and must therefore be dismissed.” The judge stated that the complaint failed to clearly address Facebook’s market dominance.
The FTC told Android Central at the time that it is reviewing the decision and “assessing the best option forward.”
Facebook’s request to have Khan recuse herself from the proceeding comes a couple of weeks after Amazon petitioned for the same request. In its 25-page document, Amazon stated that Khan’s public commentary makes her bias to any proceeding involving the company.
U.S. President Joe Biden named Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech, as chair of the FTC, and on June 15, the Senate voted across party lines to confirm her.
Khan, 32, said she looked “forward to working” with her colleagues to “protect the public from corporate abuse.” Her role will mean companies like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google will face tough scrutiny.
Prior to her new role, Khan became a prominent voice when she was a law student at Yale University, where she wrote a researched paper about modern antitrust laws and how they failed to check the power of Amazon. The paper gathered attention from policymakers, lawyers, and the press. Khan also attracted the attention of Senator Amy Klobuchar — the chair of the Senate subcommittee that oversees antitrust issues — progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley.
At the same time, criticism from Big Tech lobbyists and pro-tech groups indicates that her position and previous research could have her rule on cases with bias.
Carl Szabo, vice-president and general counsel of NetChoice, an industry group whose founders include Google, Facebook, and Amazon, said in an interview that the purpose of the FTC chair is to enforce the law like a judge, who looks at facts.
“When it comes to Ms. Khan, she seems to be less interested in applying the law as written, than writing the law and that’s very dangerous because we want fair decisions based on the law not how any judge feels about that defendant,” he said.
Szabo, who used to work for former FTC Commissioner Orson Swindle, suspects that Khan is “capable of operating independently.” However, her background “casts a cloud of doubt on everything the FTC does. It undermines the credibility of the agency.”
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