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Opening Move, Long Game

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July 19, 2021

In letters to the FTC, Facebook and Amazon have asked FTC Chair Lina Khan be recused from all decisions related to their companies. Their argument is that before her appointment, Khan was explicit in her opinion that big tech companies are in violation of antitrust rules. They claim that the new commissioner has already drawn factual and legal conclusions, and due process requires her to recuse herself. Some of the complaints in the case against Facebook that Khan inherited have been dismissed for lack of evidence of monopoly control, but the judge invited the FTC to come back and try again. The agency has backing in the form of President Biden’s request that it prioritize “dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.” The petitions filed by Amazon and Facebook are risk-free and stand an outside chance at provoking a recusal, so they make sense, but are likely just opening gambits in a long game.

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