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Meta sues FTC, hoping to block ban on monetizing kids’ Facebook data

Photo illustration in which the Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPhone in front of a Meta logo

Getty Images | Chesnot

Meta sued the Federal Trade Commission yesterday in a lawsuit that challenges the FTC’s authority to impose new privacy obligations on the social media firm.

The complaint stems from the FTC’s May 2023 allegation that Meta-owned Facebook violated a 2020 privacy settlement and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The FTC proposed changes to the 2020 privacy order that would, among other things, prohibit Facebook from monetizing data it collects from users under 18.

Meta’s lawsuit against the FTC challenges what it calls “the structurally unconstitutional authority exercised by the FTC through its Commissioners in an administrative reopening proceeding against Meta.” It was filed against the FTC, Chair Lina Khan, and other commissioners in US District Court for the District of Columbia. Meta is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the FTC proceeding pending resolution of the lawsuit.

Meta argues that in the FTC’s administrative proceedings, “the Commission has a dual role as prosecutor and judge in violation of the Due Process Clause.” Meta asked the court to “declare that certain fundamental aspects of the Commission’s structure violate the US Constitution, and that these violations render unlawful the FTC Proceeding against Meta.”

Meta says it should have a right to a trial by jury and that “Congress unconstitutionally has delegated to the FTC the power to assign disputes to administrative adjudication rather than litigating them before an Article III court.” The FTC should not be allowed to “unilaterally modify the terms” of the 2020 settlement, Meta said.

The FTC action “would dictate how and when Meta can design its products,” the lawsuit said.

Democrats slam “baseless,” “embarrassing” suit

Meta’s lawsuit was criticized by US Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee. “This lawsuit is embarrassing,” Pallone said in a statement. “It speaks volumes that Meta would rather launch a frivolous lawsuit against the agency tasked by Congress with protecting American consumers, especially our children, than do the serious work needed to reform their platforms.”

Pallone predicted that Meta will lose the lawsuit and called it “a stunt intended to distract from the serious concerns regarding Meta’s social media platforms and business practices.”

US Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) issued a similar criticism. “Meta’s baseless lawsuit is a weak attempt to avoid accountability for its repeated failures to protect kids’ privacy online,” Markey said.

The FTC declined to comment on Meta’s lawsuit when contacted by Ars today.

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