Sunday, 22 September, 2019

Facebook hit with antitrust investigation by states' attorneys general

Google, Facebook to be hit with state antitrust probes Nine US states launch probe into whether Facebook broke antitrust rules
Emmett Howard | 10 September, 2019, 14:39

New York Attorney General Letitia James said that her office was organizing a bipartisan, multi-state probe into social media company Facebook focusing on how its industry dominance harms competition, The Wall Street Journal reports.

While the probe by the state AGs is among the first announced antitrust actions against a big USA tech company by American officials since the United States sued Microsoft a couple of decades ago, the European Union has issued billions of dollars worth of fines against Google in the past two years in three separate antitrust actions, and is also investigating Amazon over antitrust.

"I'm launching an investigation into Facebook to determine whether their actions endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers' choices, or increased the price of advertising", NY attorney general Letitia James said this morning.

State attorneys general often team up to influence policy, including when the federal government lacks the resources or is yet to act.

Facebook, by far the largest social network, in the past has claimed it is not a monopoly and that consumers have many choices for how to connect with people online.

The Trump-era Justice Department has already tried to push the bounds of antitrust law, albeit unsuccessfully.

On the federal level, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission are probing Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon, also for potential violations of antitrust law.

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"We believe that a broad movement to break up companies exclusively because they are large will fail without a change to existing antitrust laws", Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note to investors Friday.

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

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has joined seven other states and the District of Columbia in investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations.

Texas AG Ken Paxton on Friday said he will kick off a probe into potentially anticompetitive tactics by large tech companies on Monday, leading a team of law-enforcement heads from as many as three-dozen states. The inaction in the United States came to stand in stark contrast with Europe, which later issued a series of stinging, multibillion-dollar fines against the company for the way it displays search results and manages its Android smartphone operating system.

"People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide", Castleberry said. Current interpretations of US law against monopolies don't obviously apply to companies offering cheap goods or free online services.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has made a breakup of the big tech firms a part of her campaign platform.

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