FTC not to appeal court ruling that allows Meta to acquire Within

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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that it will not appeal the federal court ruling which allowed Meta Platforms to acquire VR content maker Within Unlimited. The agency, however, said it could still follow up with an internal administrative law judge.

The FTC filed the suit against Meta in July 2022, saying its acquisition of Within would reduce competition in the VR market. Back in 2014, Meta bought the VR headset maker Oculus. The FTC argued that another acquisition would violate antitrust laws and dampen innovation.

The FTC argued that Meta has one of the biggest VR content catalogs among global companies in the nascent industry after purchasing seven successful VR studios. More and more companies being absorbed by Meta would leave customers no choice but to use Meta-controlled platforms.

Last week, Judge Edward Davila of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Meta could proceed with the acquisition process. Judge Davila explained that the FTC did not provide substantial evidence for its allegations of market monopoly.

Meta made a statement following the court decision, saying it was “pleased” with the ruling.

“This deal will bring pro-competitive benefits to the ecosystem and spur innovation that will benefit people, developers, and the VR space more broadly,” Meta said.

“We look forward to closing the transaction soon.”


Meta did not reveal the acquisition cost for Within, but sources said the figure was around $400 million. Analysts said the trial, which took place last December, was a test of the FTC’s effort to stop conglomerates from acquiring small potential rivals in the market.

In light of the court’s decision, an FTC official said the agency had not decided whether to try stopping the deal before the FTC administrative law judge. The internal hearing is scheduled for February 13.

The FTC also has another ongoing lawsuit against Meta — an attempt to force the tech giant to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.

Its argument against Meta for the suit is similar to the Within case, saying the company uses a “buy or bury” strategy to ward off smaller competitors.

FTC vs. big tech

Analysts said that after Lina Khan took over the helm at the FTC, the agency began closely monitoring big tech to prevent market monopoly.

Harvard economist Jason Furman predicted that federal courts would not support Khan’s effort to fight big tech, saying she would barely impact the tech market. Furman added that she would “face very big challenges.”

However, American Economics Liberties Project research director Matt Stoller instead said she had a good prospect of managing the tech market. Stoller explained that the agency’s leadership in the pre-2000s era had weakened it against these big tech companies. Stoller insisted that the FTC would win against monopoly in the tech market, returning it to its pre-1980s glory.

FTC earlier launched an investigation — initiated during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s term — about transactions that would be considered monopolies. It focused on Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.

When the investigation was completed in 2021, Khan said it summed up “the extent to which these firms have devoted tremendous resources to acquiring start-ups, patent portfolios, and entire teams of technologists — and how they were able to do so largely outside of our purview.”

As of December 2022, Khan and the FTC had launched 12 antitrust suits.