An American judge has just asked TikTok, WeChat and Telegram for information concerning their market shares: enough, according to Facebook, to prove a competitive dynamic.
It is weight support for Meta. US judge James Boasberg, in charge of the case against the company for abuse of dominant position, comes to send several letters to the competitors of the groupto ask them for precise information on their activities and their market shares.
A missive therefore went to the Chinese Ministry of Justice, concerning two Asian giants: on the one hand, Tencent, responsible for the mobile messaging application WeChat; on the other, ByteDance, parent company of the video aggregator and social network TikTok. Another letter went to the British Virgin Islands: this is where the holding company of the Telegram messaging service is housed.
Boasberg emphasized in those letters wanting to get his hands on user data, as well as presentations to investors and board members. The judge thus wishes to obtain information on the analyzes carried out by these companies concerning their competition with Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram, all belonging to Meta.
Raising of shields
Meta has already announced that so far it has been unable to retrieve data for its competitors’ US subsidiaries, and has sought the support of the trial judge to source directly from their homes- mothers.
In March, the companies concerned had asked for their part that James Boasberg limit what the lawyers of Meta could see during the trial. Meta offers to open access to confidential data to two of its internal advisers, in order to be able to defend itself properly. “Meta requires an extremely large amount of sensitive materials from third parties,” the judge simply conceded.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency responsible for competition in the United States and at the origin of the complaint filed against Meta, believes that the group’s requirements are too high, and could hinder its competitors.
Many companies that do not compete with Meta for providing personal social networking services may be harmed by the disclosure of confidential information,” she said in the spring.
These data could prove to be central in the trial which will have to judge whether or not Meta has abused its dominant position. The competition assessment was already at the center of the exchanges between justice, the FTC and Meta in August 2021: Boasberg had then validated the procedure initiated by the FTC, considering that “the facts as they are presented this time (…) are more solid and detailed than before”. Because Washington had refused a first attack by the FTC, in June 2021: the agency was then unable to produce the necessary evidence.
In its second complaint, the FTC estimates that the personal social networking market is occupied by more than 65% by Meta, via Facebook and Instagram. Another point of tension, the successive takeovers of Instagram and Whatsapp: the FTC maintains that Mark Zuckerberg’s group “illegally bought or buried new innovators when their popularity made them an existential threat.”
Meta denounces excessive politicization of the case: the group is particularly targeting Lina Khan, a lawyer appointed by Joe Biden to head the FTC and committed against monopolies.