Court Asks for Evidence from China’s WeChat for Meta’s Defense in Data Usage Suit

A letter of request filed late last week by Judge James Donato, the judge overseeing a consolidated class action against Meta Platforms Inc. over its data usage practices and alleged monopolization of the “social advertising” market, has asked the People’s Republic of China for documents held by Tencent Holdings Ltd., operator of Chinese-language messaging app WeChat and social platform QQ.

The letter, submitted in conformity with the Hague Convention and on behalf of Meta, seeks information that supports the defendant’s defenses, like those seeking to undermine the plaintiffs’ market definition and monopolization allegations.

The filing summarizes that in the two-track Northern District of California case, the consumer plaintiffs allege that Meta misrepresented privacy protections afforded to users about the amount of user data that it harvested and made available to third parties.

The advertiser plaintiffs are individuals and entities that purchased advertising products from Meta who make similar allegations. They contend that Meta engaged in anticompetitive practices to eliminate and prevent further competition and entered into an illegal agreement with Google in September 2018 to divide the online advertising market, ultimately helping Meta maintain its social advertising market dominance.

Both sets of plaintiffs allege antitrust and unfair competition claims against the social media platform operator.

Last week’s letter seeks information relevant to Meta’s defenses and notes that documents provided are subject to a strict protective order. Specifically, Meta requests discovery to show that Tencent’s products have competed with Meta’s products.

“Meta seeks documents related to how Tencent views competition between its products and Meta … and whether WeChat or QQ’s services provide users with features substantially similar to those provided by Meta,” the filing specifies. In addition, the defendant requests information related to Tencent’s acquisition “of certain U.S.-based companies” as well as WeChat and QQ’s daily active user tallies, explaining that “this information is relevant to countering Plaintiffs’ allegations that Meta has monopoly power in any cognizable market.”

The docket directs the clerk to address the letter to “appropriate judicial authorities of the People’s Republic of China and the British Virgin Islands,” but does not specify a time for compliance.

Interim counsel for the advertiser class is Bathaee Dunne LLP , Scott + Scott Attorneys at Law LLP, Ahdoot & Wolfson PC, and Levin Sedran & Berman LLP.

Interim counsel for the consumer class is Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, Keller Postman LLC, and Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. 

Facebook is represented by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.