US attorneys to launch probes into Google and Facebook

US attorneys to launch probes into Google and Facebook
Source: Nypost.com
Date: 09-09-2019 Time: 05:09:58:am

Big Tech may have gotten too big.

That’s the take from a bipartisan group of state attorneys general, who are launching probes into Silicon Valley giants including Facebook and Google 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.

Paxton didn’t divulge which companies where in his crosshairs, but Google will reportedly be a target because of its outsize shares of the digital advertising market, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Just hours earlier on Friday, New York AG Letitia James revealed that she is leading a multistate, bipartisan investigation into whether Facebook engaged in anticompetitive behavior and put its users at risk.

“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,” she tweeted.

Attorneys general investigating the company also include those of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia — and more are expected to join, according to a statement from James.

Shares of Facebook were trading down 1.8 percent Friday afternoon, at $187.49.

Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy, said the company would work constructively with state attorneys general, even as he pushed back against the idea that Facebook has amassed undue power in the online ad market.

“People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide,” Castleberry said. “We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the United States but around the globe.”

Google spokesman Jose Castañeda said the search giant is “working constructively with regulators, including attorneys general, in answering questions,” adding that “Google’s services help people every day, create more choice for consumers, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country.”

In July, the US Justice Department said it was opening a broad investigation of major digital technology firms, focusing on whether they engage in anticompetitive practices. The investigation is believed to target Google, Amazon and Facebook, and potentially Apple.

Separately, the Federal Trade Commission, which also enforces antitrust laws, is also probing Amazon and Facebook to determine if they abused their massive market power in retail and social media, respectively.

Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, has been criticized for holding sway over third-party sellers on its website, who must pay for advertising to compete against first-party and private label sales by Amazon itself.

Lawmakers have also argued that Amazon’s low prices have hurt brick-and-mortar retailers, many of whom have closed because they could not compete.


The probes come as Silicon Valley’s top companies face unprecedented scrutiny of their business practices, including claims from President Trump that tech giants meddle with his coverage and Twitter following — and calls by presidential candidates to break up the nation’s biggest tech companies.

Trump slammed Google last year for prioritizing negative coverage of him in search results and accused Twitter in April of deleting his followers.

Google has denied “a political agenda,” and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey earlier this year held an impromptu sitdown with Trump to explain that Twitter was purging spam accounts.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, meanwhile, has made the breakup of big tech companies — including Google, Apple and Amazon — one of her top campaign promises.