States hit Face­book and Google with new probes

The Morning Call - - BUSINESS CYCLE - By Marcy Gor­don and Matt O’Brien

WASH­ING­TON — Two groups of states are tar­get­ing Face­book and Google in sep­a­rate an­titrust probes, widen­ing the scru­tiny of Big Tech be­yond sweep­ing fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions into their mar­ket dom­i­nance.

Face­book and Google are two of the world’s largest and most ubiq­ui­tous tech com­pa­nies.

The bil­lions who use their ser­vices for mak­ing so­cial me­dia posts, up­load­ing videos or search­ing ads are targeted by the tech com­pa­nies for their per­sonal data — a prized as­set that en­hances the com­pa­nies’ power.

Reg­u­la­tors are ex­am­in­ing whether the com­pa­nies have used their mar­ket power to crimp com­pe­ti­tion, po­ten­tially rais­ing prices and hurt­ing consumers.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­eral Leti­tia James, a Demo­crat, con­firmed the Face­book in­ves­ti­ga­tion in a news re­lease Fri­day, say­ing the probe by the coali­tion of states she is lead­ing would fo­cus on Face­book’s “dom­i­nance in the in­dus­try and the po­ten­tial an­ti­com­pet­i­tive con­duct stem­ming from that dom­i­nance.”

A sep­a­rate group of state at­tor­neys gen­eral is an­nounc­ing Mon­day in Wash­ing­ton the launch of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into “whether large tech com­pa­nies have en­gaged in an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­ior that sti­fled com­pe­ti­tion, re­stricted ac­cess and harmed consumers,” an ad­vi­sory from Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken Pax­ton said Fri­day.

The Wash­ing­ton Post and The Wall Street Jour­nal, cit­ing sources they didn’t iden­tify, have re­ported that tar­get will be Google.

Both groups of state at­tor­neys gen­eral in­clude Democrats and Re­pub­li­cans.

With some 2.4 bil­lion users around the globe and a huge so­cial me­dia pres­ence, Face­book has sparked out­rage with a se­ries of pri­vacy scan­dals and its use by Rus­sian op­er­a­tives in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In July, Face­book was hit with a $5 bil­lion fine from the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion over pri­vacy vi­o­la­tions.

“Even the largest so­cial me­dia plat­form in the world must fol­low the law and re­spect consumers,” James said.

She said the probe would seek to de­ter­mine if Face­book en­dan­gered con­sumer data, re­duced the qual­ity of con­sumer choices or in­creased the price of ad­ver­tis­ing.

The U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment opened a sweep­ing an­titrust in­ves­ti­ga­tion of big tech com­pa­nies this sum­mer, look­ing at whether their on­line plat­forms have hurt com­pe­ti­tion, sup­pressed in­no­va­tion or oth­er­wise harmed consumers.

The Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion has been con­duct­ing its own com­pe­ti­tion probe of Big Tech, as has the House Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee on an­titrust.

The law­maker lead­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Rep. David Ci­cilline, D-R.I., said Fri­day the states’ probe of Face­book is “com­pletely ap­pro­pri­ate.”

“Face­book has proven time and time again that it can­not be trusted to reg­u­late it­self,” Ci­cilline said.

NOAH BERGER/AP

Face­book is one of the world’s largest and most ubiq­ui­tous tech com­pa­nies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.