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46 US states call for Meta monopoly lawsuit to be reinstated

States, led by New York, seek to revive 2020 anti-competition cases to break up Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram

A group of 46 American states have argued to an appeals court that it should reinstate an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook (now Meta) over the acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp. 

The appeal relates to a 2020 lawsuit that was squashed due to a legal stipulation around the timing of the court filing. 

The solicitor general of New York, who is leading the group of states, Barbara Underwood, said that it was wrong to treat the states like class action and place limits on when they can launch lawsuits, according to Bloomberg. The 46 states include Guam and the District of Columbia, but not Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and South Dakota.

An unreasonable delay in court filings can be subject to "Laches" which protect defendants against prejudices. The party invoking laches asserts that the opposition has "slept on its rights" and delayed the action and therefore circumstances, witnesses or even evidence may no longer be available. Underwood is countering this with a claim that the states' action is more akin to law enforcement and that the laches stipulation is not applicable. 

The case against Facebook claims its actions - the 2012 acquisition of Instagram and the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp - have had a negative effect on both the US economy and its technology marketplace. As such, the 46 states are asking a three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reinstate the lawsuit. The 2020 case was launched at the same time as the US Federal Trade Commission sued Facebook, which also sought to break up the three companies. Which is a case that is still moving forward. 

Facebook's original defence against the 46 states, led by Aaron Panner, argued that the two acquisitions, Instagram and WhatsApp, were well publicised at the time and didn't interfere with its policies regarding third-party apps. This last point referred to accusations that Facebook applied penalties to apps on its platform that connected with other social networks. 

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