Facebook Inc. the company wants to suspend Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, from participating in decisions on the monopoly lawsuit against the agency company, saying it is sidelined by past criticism from Facebook.
On Wednesday, Facebook filed a petition with the FTC asking it to ban any involvement in the antitrust case, citing its work on the House Committee, which investigated its academic writings and technology companies, including Facebook.
“Throughout his professional career, Chair Khan has consistently and very clearly concluded that Facebook is guilty of violating antitrust laws,” Facebook said. His statements “convey to any interested observer that Chair Khan, before becoming commissioner, decided on events that are relevant to Facebook’s responsibility.”
The petition must be decided by the FTC by the end of the month as to whether or not to file a complaint against the monopoly against Facebook because it wants to break the business by splitting Instagram and WhatsApp. In June, a judge dismissed the case, failing to fully explain the agency’s claim that Facebook has a monopoly on social media. It took the FTC 30 days to fix the error and fix it again.
Facebook’s request reflects one made by Amazon.com Inc., which Khan’s criticism of the online retailer made clear that the company has ruled that it has violated antitrust laws.
The FTC did not immediately comment on Facebook’s request.
President Joe Biden was named president of the Khan agency in June after it was confirmed by the Senate. The move put one of the most prominent critics of big business in charge of an agency that shares anti-competitive obligations with the Department of Justice.
In the request, Facebook stated an academic article titled “The Separation of Platforms and Commerce” that Khan wrote for the Columbia Law Review. The paper explains how Facebook, Amazon, Apple Inc. and how Google has integrated them into multiple lines of business to describe them as the gateway to the digital economy.
According to Khan, Facebook has “excluded competitors from its platform and acquired the information and functionality of its business.”
Khan was also one of the authors of last year’s anti-House report, alleging that four tech giants abused their dominance, and the anti-monopoly law now being pursued by lawmakers recommended numerous reforms.
After Amazon filed a motion to reject it, the FTC issued a rule that a commissioner should first withdraw himself. If he fails to do so, the full committee shall vote without the participation of the commissioner who has requested the waiver of the matter.
Khan leads a three-vote Democratic majority on a five-member committee. If he decides not to resign himself and goes on to vote on the issue, he would be left in the hands of two Republicans and two Democrats. One Democrat – Rohit Chopra – has been nominated by Biden to head the Office of Consumer Financial Protection, but the Senate has not confirmed it.
When he was confirmed in the Khan Senate in April, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee asked him if he should refrain from investigations related to the technology companies he was given to work on the anti-house panel.
Lee cited a federal appeals court ruling that the former FTC president did not have to participate in a case before the commission because he investigated the same issue as a lawyer on the Senate antitrust subcommittee. Facebook mentioned the case in its request.
The court’s decision “is particularly important in this case because it is the same as the violation of the process that the proper process committee would do here, unless there is a recusal from President Khan Khan,” Facebook said.
Laws of Ethics
Khan told Lee that he had no financial dispute on which to base ethics under federal law.
“If it were to be created I would ask for the guidance of the agency’s ethics officers and I would continue to do so,” he said.
Prior to joining the House Antitrust Committee, Khan served 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 – which advocates breaking up the two companies.
In a 2017 letter, Khan and other Open Markets employees asked the FTC to block Facebook purchases while the company investigated its behavior on social media and online advertising.
“Our demand comes amid growing evidence that Facebook is drowning in growing market power, weakening privacy, and increasingly using ways to distract readers and ad revenue from reliable news and information sources,” they said.
(Facebook request updates in the eighth paragraph)