Court refuses to bar Meta from buying VR Fitness app over FTC objection

Meta’s bid to buy virtual reality (VR) company Within Unlimited may proceedsays a federal judge—despite objections from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Meta — the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — bet big on VR with the launch of its “Metaverse.” Within Unlimited fits into that plan because of its popular VR fitness app Supernatural. But the FTC objected to this purchase, calling it an illegal acquisition.

If Meta wants a virtual reality fitness app, it should develop its own, the FTC said. Buying an existing app would “eliminate the possibility of such entry, stifling future innovation and competitive rivalry,” a violation of U.S. antitrust law.

It was a very silly argument, though very much in line with the antitrust philosophy of the Biden administration and FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan. Both have taken an aggressive stance toward antitrust in general—seeing it as a way to cut big companies down to size, not just to protect consumer welfare—and antitrust against big tech companies in particular.

So the FTC sued to prevent Meta from buying Within Unlimited. And far from just determining whether Meta can buy the Supernatural app or must develop its own VR fitness platform, the case also served as a test of sorts for the FTC’s controversial Khan proposal.

The case tests “the FTC’s argument that potential future concentration in the still-evolving market for virtual reality fitness apps is enough to stop the merger between Meta and Within,” said Max Gulker, senior policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit that publishes Reasonin December:

[Khan] and others belonging to the New Brandeisian school of antitrust are advocating a more aggressive stance toward mergers than has been seen in decades. This advocacy makes the FTC v. Meta case a case to watch as it may offer an overview of the FTC’s new strategy as well as its potential success in court….

A large tech company taking on a niche startup in a fast-moving market is not an unusual event. Along with adapting to Meta’s strategy, startups like Within often see such buyouts as a successful outcome of their entrepreneurial endeavors.

The Federal Trade Commission’s July 2022 announcement to block the acquisition reflects the more aggressive antitrust approach Khan is taking.

Yesterday’s decision by US District Judge Edward Davila deals a blow to Khan’s approach.

Davila refused to issue an acquisition ban, he reports The Wall Street Journal. For now, the decision is still under seal.

However, this is not the end of the battle.

“The FTC may continue to try to block the deal through a separate lawsuit filed in its internal administrative court, where a trial is scheduled to begin on February 13,” Magazine stands out. “But antitrust authorities in the past have often abandoned such administrative suits after a federal judge has denied a request for an injunction.”

The FTC’s lawsuit against Meta’s alleged “monopoly” on social media services is also still pending.


Trump is teasing new ways of authoritarianism. The former president and presidential candidate’s 2024 education plan would give the federal government even more control over what can be taught in schools across the country. His plans include treating what he calls the “Marxism preached in our schools” (meaning anything that Trump’s conservatives don’t like) as a violation of the separation of church and state and a violation of religious freedom. In a video speech last week, Trump also promised to create a “new credentialing body” for teachers who “embrace patriotic values,” and said he would cut federal funding to schools or educational programs that push “critical race theory, gender ideology, or other inappropriate racial , sexual or political content on our children”—vague terms that can also mean whatever the people in power want them to mean.

In a new video this week, Trump said that “as part of our new teacher credentialing body, we will promote positive education about the nuclear family, the roles of mothers and fathers” and gender differences. He vowed to ban transgender student-athletes anywhere in the country from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity and vowed that the Justice Department would prosecute teachers who tell children that they are transgender (“they will face severe consequences, including potential civil rights violations”).

Trump said he would “ask Congress to pass legislation establishing that the only genders recognized by the United States government are male and female, and they are assigned at birth.” He also promised to strip hospitals or health care providers of Medicare and Medicaid if they allow any sex-reassignment treatments (including things like puberty blockers or hormone treatments) for minors, and said he would create a private right of action for people to sue. doctors who do it.

Trump’s promises are part of a broader Republican strategy for 2024 Axios describes as a “‘Protect the Children’ platform,” which focuses on “aggressive targeting[ing] school policies on gender identity and the way racial issues are taught.”


Interest rates rose again. “The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday and gave little indication that the end of this hike cycle is near,” notes CNBC:

In line with market expectations, the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee raised the federal funds rate by 0.25 percentage points. That takes it to a target range of 4.5%-4.75%, the highest since October 2007.

The move marked the eighth increase in a process that began in March 2022. The funds rate itself determines how much banks charge each other for overnight lending, but it is also passed on to many consumer debt products.


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