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Meta Platforms Challenges FTC, Alleges Unconstitutional Actions
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META AND DFINITY

Meta Platforms Inc. has launched a legal challenge against the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), questioning the constitutionality of the agency’s enforcement actions. The tech giant seeks to halt the FTC’s attempts to modify their 2020 privacy settlement, arguing that the agency’s internal process is biased and violates the US Constitution.

Meta’s Allegations

In a lawsuit filed at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, Meta claims that the FTC’s administrative process favors its commissioners, creating a biased decision-making environment. Legal experts view this as a significant attack on the FTC’s operating procedures, emphasizing potential implications for the agency’s enforcement practices.

Legal Maneuvers

This legal move follows a dismissal earlier in the week of Meta’s complaint seeking judicial approval for reopening the $5 billion privacy settlement—the largest in US history. Although denied by Judge Timothy Kelly, Meta immediately filed an emergency motion at the US Court of Appeals, aiming to block the FTC’s actions.

  
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Constitutional Challenges

Meta’s lawsuit aligns with a broader trend of corporations challenging the constitutionality of federal agencies’ administrative adjudication processes. The US Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Axon Enterprise v. FTC and SEC v. Cochran has opened avenues for such challenges, allowing targets to question the constitutionality of actions without waiting for in-house decisions.

Broader Implications

The case echoes challenges other federal agencies face, particularly in light of increasing court scrutiny over administrative authority. Similar debates are ongoing at the Supreme Court in SEC v. Jarkesy, questioning agencies’ abilities to seek penalties before in-house judges. Meta’s complaint raises parallel concerns about Congress delegating power for administrative adjudication and potential violations of the right to a trial by jury.

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Supreme Court’s Role

Legal experts speculate that the Supreme Court’s rulings in ongoing cases, including Meta’s, could reshape the landscape of administrative agency power. Comparisons are drawn to recent decisions like West Virginia v. EPA and Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, indicating a broader reassessment of agency structures and procedures.

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Privacy Fallout

Apart from the legal implications, the case is expected to slow down the FTC’s proposed updates to Meta’s 2020 privacy settlement. The updates, introduced in May, aim to restrict Meta’s use of facial recognition and prohibit profiting from children’s data. A ruling against the FTC could jeopardize its ability to safeguard consumer privacy, as critics argue it challenges decades of congressional authorization.

Congressional Response

Privacy advocates and congressional members critical of Meta’s data handling practices have supported the FTC. Senator Edward Markey accused Meta of attempting to evade accountability and emphasized the importance of regulatory oversight in protecting children’s online privacy.

In response to Meta’s legal challenge, Facebook, Meta’s parent company, did not immediately comment.

The case is Meta Platforms Inc. v. The Federal Trade Commission, D.D.C., No. 1:23-cv-03562, complaint filed 11/30/23.

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