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FTC accuses Facebook of "buy or bury" scheme in new antitrust complaint

The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday took a second shot at alleging Facebook is an illegal monopoly in a new complaint that accuses the social media company of buying up potential competitors or thwarting their access to the platform.

Why it matters: The FTC, now led by Big Tech critic Lina Khan, is trying to save its case against Facebook after a judge dismissed its first attempt.


Driving the news: The FTC filed an amended complaint in a D.C. federal court arguing Facebook illegally acquired competitors WhatsApp and Instagram, and that Facebook "lured" app developers to its platform and "buried" them when they became competitive threats.

  • In June, Judge James Boasberg dismissed the agency's first complaint, noting that it lacked specifics on the metrics or methods used in defining and calculating Facebook's market share, but allowed the agency to try again.
  • The FTC said in a press release that its new complaint bolsters its arguments with new detailed statistics on Facebook's market share and new evidence showing Facebook has the power to control prices or exclude competition.

What they're saying: “Facebook lacked the business acumen and technical talent to survive the transition to mobile," said Holly Vedova, FTC Bureau of Competition Acting Director.

  • "After failing to compete with new innovators, Facebook illegally bought or buried them when their popularity became an existential threat. This conduct is no less anticompetitive than if Facebook had bribed emerging app competitors not to compete."

The other side: Facebook has previously argued that the government's case ignores the competition that the company faces from companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, Snap, Amazon, TikTok and Microsoft.

  • Facebook did not immediately comment on the new complaint from the FTC.

The intrigue: Facebook called on Khan to recuse herself from the case, given her previous work on antitrust issues for the House Judiciary Committee and her public criticism of the company.

  • The FTC says the Office of General Counsel reviewed the Facebook petition and Office of the Secretary dismissed it, noting that the case will be prosecuted before a federal judge

Flashback: The FTC filed the case in the waning days of the Trump administration, with then-Chairman Joe Simons, a Republican, joining with the agency's two Democrats to bring the complaint over the objections of the two Republican commissioners.

  • The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate antitrust subcommittees urged Khan to continue enforcement efforts against Facebook for potential antitrust violations in a letter following the judge's dismissal of the complaint.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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