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Facebook hit by US antitrust probe from eight attorneys general

It will focus on Facebook's dominance and "potential anticompetitive conduct."
Nick Summers, @nisummers
September 6, 2019
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Facebook is being put under the microscope for possible antitrust violations. Letita James, attorney general for New York state, announced today that she will be leading a bipartisan investigation into the company. The exact scope of their work, however, is unclear at the moment. In a statement, the attorney general said it would focus on Facebook's "dominance in the industry and the potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that dominance." Which could mean anything and everything, essentially. James did confirm, at least, that the investigation team will include attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.

Will Castleberry, Facebook's vice president for state and local policy, said: "People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide. We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe. We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate."

The case is the latest in a series of political moves designed to keep Facebook's ballooning influence under control. Back in July, Facebook was hit with a $5 billion fine for privacy violations that included the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In addition to the fee, Facebook agreed to a new management structure and rules regarding how it manages user data. That same day, Facebook confirmed in its earnings report that the FTC had opened an antitrust investigation. The following month, the Wall Street Journal revealed that the FTC is looking at Facebook's pivotal acquisitions -- including WhatsApp and Instagram, presumably -- as part of the case.

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, is working on a broader antitrust review of "market-leading online platforms." According to the Washington Post, the department will announce a targeted antitrust investigation into Google, led by more than 25 attorneys general, sometime next week.

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