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Facebook says new FTC chief should step away from antitrust probe

The request follows Amazon making similar allegations of bias on the part of Lina Khan.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Facebook on Wednesday said Lina Khan, the new chairperson of the US Federal Trade Commission, should recuse herself from participating in decisions about the FTC's antitrust case against the company. The move comes two weeks after Amazon filed a similar motion, with both companies alleging that Khan is too biased against them.

In a petition filed to the FTC, Facebook said Khan has already made up her mind that Facebook violated antirust law, a claim the social network has pushed back against. Her participation in the case would deny the social network due process, Facebook said. 

The company pointed out that when Khan worked at the Open Markets Institute, an anti-monopoly think tank, she wrote articles alleging Facebook violated antitrust laws. She also published academic articles critical of Facebook, led the House Judiciary Committee's investigation of competition in the digital marketplace and made comments about the social network in media appearances and on Twitter.

"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," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement, adding that the company filed the petition to protect fairness and impartiality. 

The FTC declined to comment.

In June, a federal judge dismissed a complaint filed by the FTC that accused Facebook of engaging in illegal anticompetitive practices such as snapping up its rivals rather than competing with them. The judge said the FTC didn't provide enough evidence that Facebook held monopoly power in social networking, but gave the agency until the end of July to file an amended complaint. Facebook owns social media app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp, and critics say those companies should be broken away from the company.

Khan was selected as FTC chairperson by President Joe Biden last month, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced five antitrust bills targeting tech giants like Amazon and Facebook.  The Wall Street Journal previously reported about the FTC petition.