States hit Facebook and Google with new probes
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.
Facebook is one of the world’s largest and most ubiquitous tech companies.