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Meta demands Snap documents to defend against $2 trillion antitrust claims

Snap balked at Meta's request for large amounts of corporate data and documents to fight antitrust claims by consumers and advertisers.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Meta Platforms asked a federal judge Wednesday to force Snap to turn over a slew of data and documents Meta says it needs to defend itself in a $2 trillion antitrust lawsuit by users as well as a related, $67.8 billion antitrust case by advertisers.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, asked a federal judge in Los Angeles to order its smaller competitor — and purported victim of Meta's alleged antitrust violations — to comply with its subpoena for data and documents. Snap in the same filing asked the court to quash Meta's subpoena.

According to Meta, the information it seeks from Snap is crucial to its defense in two consolidated class actions in San Francisco, where the social media juggernaut is accused of misrepresenting its user-privacy practices for 15 years in order to gain a monopoly in the social media and social network markets, and of other anticompetitive conduct to gain a monopoly in the social advertising market.

Snap as an alleged victim and a competitor is one of the most important nonparties in the San Francisco case, Meta said.

"Data and information bearing on the effect Meta’s alleged conduct had on Snap, Snap’s own analogous policies and practices, and Snap’s evaluation of market dynamics, including the identity of competitors and the nature of competition are critical to Meta’s defense," Meta said in its request.

Meta is already fighting a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit accusing the company of an illegal "buy-or-bury" scheme to unlawfully acquired innovative competitors with popular mobile features that succeeded where the company’s own offerings fell flat or fell apart. The FTC accuses Meta of luring app developers to its platform, surveilling them for signs of success, and then burying them when they became competitive threats.  On Wednesday, Meta and Snap also filed dueling positions over Meta's request for information from Snap related to the FTC litigation.

A judge advanced the FTC lawsuit this past January. The same month, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in the Silicon Valley allowed part of users' and advertisers' antitrust claims to move forward over Meta's objections.

The users claim Facebook sought to benefit from shoddy privacy protection at rivals such as MySpace by promising its users better security of their personal data. The company allegedly “spent the next 15 years deceiving consumers about the data privacy protections that it provided to users in exchange for access to their data,” while at the same time selling increasing amounts of this data to third parties.

The advertisers meanwhile said in a heavily redacted amended complaint filed this past February that by the end of 2010, Facebook had emerged as the victor among social networks and had obtained a monopoly in social advertising — a form of advertising, they claim, that relies on social data to power machine learning and AI models used for advertising and content targeting.

When Facebook's dominance was threatened in 2018 by Google's technological advancements in machine learning for its online-ad business, the advertisers claim Meta and Google cut a deal, codenamed Jedi Blue, whereby Meta ceded the programmatic and exchange-based ad markets to Google and Google agreed to provide Meta with tools to identify Facebook users on the web and across third-party mobile apps and to give Facebook priority to target these users with ads.

Santa Monica, California-based Snap said in Wednesday's filing that even keeping track of Meta's voluminous requests for documents and data was already too burdensome to comply with. The company said it offered to provide some relevant information to Meta but only on condition that Meta's own in-house lawyers would be blocked from reviewing it. That has led to impasse, according to Snap.

"The question is not whether Snap has potentially relevant material; the question is whether Meta can force Snap to search for and produce innumerable reams of documents so that Meta can search for a proverbial needle in the haystack to support every one of its defense theories — and whether it can use the pretext of civil discovery to obtain its closest competitor’s confidential business strategy documents and provide them to Meta’s in-house counsel," Snap said in its filing. "The court should not endorse this sort of fishing expedition or abuse of civil discovery; nor should the court impose such a crushing burden on a nonparty."

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