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States Set to Launch Google and Facebook Antitrust Investigations

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The attorney generals of New York and Texas have announced they will begin antitrust investigations into, respectively, Facebook and Google. And they’ll be bringing some friends. Trust Me As reported by The Wall Street Journal, two of the biggest tech firms around will soon be undergoing antitrust investigations, designed to gauge the impact their dominance of the online landscape has on the American populace. Face It New York Attorney General Letitia James is organizing a multi-state, bipartisan investigation into whether, as James said in a statement, Facebook’s online dominance has “endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.” New York will be joined in the investigation by the attorney generals of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia. Déjà Vu In case you are, quite understandably, thinking “I thought Facebook was already being antitrusted?,” you are correct. This investigation is in addition to the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust inquiry from earlier this summer into whether the social media giant was using its size to squash competition. At the moment, it does not seem as though the two investigations will coordinate efforts, but the FTC also leveled a $5 billion dollar fine against the company for mishandling user’s data in the wake of the 2016 Cambridge Analytica scandal. As part of the settlement, the FTC will seek to create an independent privacy committee of directors on the company’s board, the first major check against founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. (Though shareholders would love it if there were more; but a recent proposal to break up Zuckerberg’s dual roles as chairman and CEO did not pass.) You Get an Antitrust Lawsuit, and You Get a… Google is also getting in on the antitrust action, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected, according to the Journal, to begin an investigation into the effects of Google’s dominance of digital advertising markets and the potential harm to consumers from “their information and ad choices being concentrated in one company.” Paxton is expected to be joined by three dozen state attorneys. Google has indicated it will comply with the investigation, and it is also doubling up, as the company is simultaneously dealing with a Justice Department antitrust probe. Antitrust Superstars Antitrust investigations into tech firms hasn’t really been a thing since a landmark bipartisan investigation of Microsoft two decades ago, in which the once dominant tech firm was forced to make its Windows platform more accessible to third-party software developers. These new antitrust measures have been popping up as more Americans say they are weary of the hold social media has on their lives, and as Presidential candidates such as Senator Elizabeth Warren have pledged to break up big tech firms if elected. -Michael Tedder Photo: REUTERS {FB,GOOGL, NASDAQ}