By Diane Bartz and Elizabeth Culliford
WASHINGTON – Facebook on Wednesday asked for the recusal of Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan from the FTC‘s antitrust case against the company, a step that could imperil the agency’s lawsuit against it.
The FTC sued Facebook in December, alleging that the social media giant broke antitrust law in buying photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp. A U.S. judge in June dismissed the complaint but gave the agency a roadmap for how to rewrite it and gave it a deadline of July 29 to refile it.
In a petition filed to the FTC, Facebook asked that Khan not be permitted to participate in deciding whether and how the FTC‘s case against Facebook should proceed. Since the two current Republican commissioners voted to oppose the FTC lawsuit against Facebook in December, Khan’s recusal would leave two Democrats to vote for a new lawsuit. A tie vote means that the matter would not go forward.
“Chair Khan has consistently made well-documented statements about Facebook and antitrust matters that would lead any reasonable observer to conclude that she has prejudged the Facebook antitrust case brought by the FTC,” said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement.
“To protect the fairness and impartiality of these proceedings, we have requested that Chair Khan recuse herself from involvement with the FTC’s antitrust case against Facebook.”
The FTC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Khan, a prominent critic of Big Tech who was sworn in as FTC chair in June, recently worked for the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, which issued a report in October that spelled out what it said was anti-competitive conduct by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google.
In the petition Facebook also argued that Khan’s work for the Open Markets Institute, a political advocacy group, as well as her academic writing, public appearances and tweets showed she had already reached legal conclusions that Facebook is liable for violating antitrust laws.
Amazon, which is under investigation by the FTC, also asked for her to be recused.