Facebook Inc. wants Federal Trade Commission chairwoman Lina Khan to refuse to participate in decisions on the agency’s monopoly lawsuit against the company, saying her past criticism of Facebook means she it is prejudicial.
On Wednesday, Facebook filed a petition with the FTC, requesting that it be banned from participating in the antitrust case, citing its academic writings and its work in a House committee that investigated technology companies, including Facebook. .
“For the entirety of his professional career, the Khan Chair has consistently and very publicly concluded that Facebook is guilty of violating antitrust laws,” Facebook said. His statements “convey to any disinterested observer that the Khan presidency, long before he became commissioner, had already decided the material facts relevant to Facebook’s responsibility.”
The petition comes as the FTC must decide by the end of the month whether to refrain from its antitrust complaint against Facebook, which seeks to break society by shutting down Instagram and WhatsApp. A judge in June dismissed the case, saying the agency had not fully explained its statement that Facebook has a monopoly on social media. It gave the FTC 30 days to correct the error and refile.
Facebook’s lawsuit reflects one from Amazon.com Inc., which claimed that Khan’s criticisms of the online retailer made it clear that it had already ruled that the company violated antitrust laws.
The FTC did not immediately comment on Facebook’s request.
President Joe Biden appointed Khan president of the agency in June following his confirmation by the Senate. The move has put the agency at the forefront of one of the most important criticisms of big business, which shares antitrust duties with the Justice Department.
In its petition, Facebook cited an academic paper Khan wrote for the Columbia Law Review entitled “The Separation of Platforms and Business.” The newspaper describes how Facebook, Amazon, Apple Inc. and Google have integrated more lines of business to become what it has described as the guardians of the digital economy.
Khan wrote that Facebook “simultaneously knocked out competitors from its platform and took advantage of its business information and functionality.”
Khan was also one of the authors of a House antitrust report last year that accused the four tech giants of abusing their dominance and recommended a slew of reforms to antitrust laws that lawmakers are now pursuing. .
After Amazon filed its denial petition, the FTC pointed out a rule that says it is up to a commissioner to deny himself. If he or she refuses to do so, the full committee shall vote on the matter without the participation of the commissioner who is subject to the request for recusal.
Khan leads a three-vote Democratic majority on the five-member commission. If she decides not to deny herself and the matter goes to a vote, it would be for both Republicans and two Democrats. One of the Democrats – Rohit Chopra – has been nominated by Biden to chair the Consumer Financial Protection Council, but has not been confirmed by the Senate.
During the April Khan Senate confirmation hearing, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee asked him if he should refrain from investigations into technology companies given his work on the antitrust panel. the House.
Lee cited a federal court of appeals decision that said a former FTC president should not participate in a case before the commission because he had investigated the same issue as a lawyer for the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate. Facebook cited the case in its petition.
The court’s decision “is particularly relevant because the violation of the legal process in this case is almost identical to the violation of the legal process that the commission would commit here in the absence of President Khan’s recusal,” Facebook said.
Law of Ethics
Khan told Lee that she did not have any of the financial disputes that are the basis for the challenge under federal ethical laws.
“If I were to be born I would seek the guidance of those responsible for ethics at the agency and I would proceed accordingly,” he said.
Prior to joining the House antitrust committee, Khan worked as a legal director at the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust organization in Washington. During his tenure, Facebook said Open Markets helped organize a campaign called Freedom from Facebook – now called Freedom from Facebook and Google – that supports the breakup of the two companies.
In a 2017 letter, Khan and other Open Markets officials urged the FTC to block purchases from Facebook while investigating the company’s behavior on social media and online advertising.
“Our demand comes amid growing evidence that Facebook is using its growing market power in ways that stifle innovation, undermine privacy, and divert readers and advertising revenue from reliable sources of news and information,” they said. .
(Updates with Facebook’s petition in the eighth paragraph)