US states launch antitrust probes of tech companies

First investigation will focus on Facebook, second to centre on Google


Reuters September 08, 2019
PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Two groups of US state attorneys general on Friday announced separate antitrust probes of large tech companies such as Alphabet’s Google and Facebook.

The first probe, led by New York and including seven other states and the District of Columbia, focuses on Facebook. The second, announced by Texas and likely to include up to 40 other states, did not specify the targets among large tech companies but was expected to centre on Google.

Once lauded as engines of economic growth, the companies in social media, internet search, e-commerce and other digital technologies have increasingly been on the defensive over lapses such as privacy breaches and their outsized market influence. Politicians including President Donald Trump, consumers, other firms and regulators have criticised that power.

“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,” New York Attorney General Letitia James tweeted.

“The largest social media platform in the world must follow the law,” she said.

The Facebook probe will include New York, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office said it was leading an investigation of large tech companies but did not name them.

That probe, likely to include more than 40 state attorneys general, is expected to focus on Google, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. A second source previously said that the Google investigation would look at the intersection of privacy and antitrust.

Google’s parent Alphabet said on Friday the Department of Justice in late August requested information and documents related to prior antitrust probes of the company.  

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2019.

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