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Facebook and Google come under scrutiny for alleged antitrust violations

Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joe Simons arrives for a news conference at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, to announce that Google’s video site YouTube has been fined $170 million to settle allegations it collected children’s personal data without their parents’ consent.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Both Facebook and Google are set to be investigated by state and federal officials due to suspected antitrust violations.

New York State attorney general Letitia James announced Friday she was launching a multi-state, bipartisan investigation with attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, according to CNBC.

The investigation will focus on Facebook’s dominance in the industry and alleged anti-competitive behavior.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” James said in a statement. “I am proud to be leading the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk. We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices or increased the price of advertising.”

Facebook is also facing a separate investigation from the Federal Trade Commission and recently announced a $5 billion settlement with it over privacy violations.

According to The Guardian, this fine was dismissed by many politicians as insignificant due to the company’s revenue of $55 billion in 2018.

“Rather than accepting this settlement, I believe we should have initiated litigation against Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg,” said Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, the Democratic FTC commissioner.

Investigations into Google’s alleged antitrust violations are expected to be announced at a news conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will lead these investigations, which will involve more than 30 other state attorneys general and examine the impact of Google on digital advertising markets, as well as potential harms to consumers from their information and ad choice being concentrated in one company.

“The extreme concentration in the technology industry is bad for the consumer, and in our opinion it’s bad for America,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III said at a June hearing. “The concentration has stifled innovation with market distortions (in) research and development, as entrepreneurs avoid competing with Google and Facebook and other tech giants.”

Google spokesman Jose Castañeda has said they are cooperating with inquiries and will “continue to work constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions about (their) business and the dynamic technology sector.”

According to an FTC spokeswoman, while it is unlikely state and federal officials will coordinate formally, they have met and value their cooperative relationship and coordination on tech and antitrust issues.