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Florida, seven other states, investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations

The bipartisan probe is being led by the New York attorney general.
Facebook faces a new legal challenge. [AP Photo | Jenny Kane] [JENNY KANE | AP]
Published Sep. 6
Updated Sep. 6

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has joined seven other states and the District of Columbia investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations.

The news came in a Friday morning news release from New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the bipartisan investigation into the social media giant.

The attorneys general are investigating “Facebook’s dominance in the industry and the potential anti-competitive conduct stemming from that dominance,” James said in a statement.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers," James’ statement said. "I am proud to be leading a 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.”

James said the attorneys general of Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia were assisting the investigation.

A spokeswoman for Moody confirmed the office has joined the investigation, but declined to elaborate on the office’s involvement.

“As it is pending and ongoing, we will not provide further comment at this time,” spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said.

According to the New York Times, Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president of state and local policy, said in a statement that the company “will work constructively with state attorneys general, and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”

Facebook, the world’s largest social media company, has been subject to increased scrutiny by the media and federal authorities since the 2016 election, when the site was manipulated by Russians trying to sow conflict among Americans.

The company, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, was also found to have given away information on more than 50 million users, which was used by the company Cambridge Analytica to target voters in the leadup to the 2016 election.

That disclosure led to Facebook being hit with a $5 billion fine by the Federal Trade Commission in July for violating consumers’ privacy, by far the largest fine for privacy violations. In addition, Facebook confirmed in its July quarterly report that it’s facing a separate anti-trust investigation by the Federal Trade Commission as well as added scrutiny from a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust review of “market-leading online platforms."

RELATED STORY: These Tampa workers see disturbing Facebook posts so you don’t. But it takes a toll.

The investigation into Facebook is just one of potentially multiple antitrust investigations into the nation’s largest tech companies.

More than three dozen attorneys general are investigating Google for similar antitrust violations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That bipartisan probe, led by the Texas attorney general, is expected to be announced Monday in Washington, according to the Journal. It’s unclear whether Florida is one of those states.

Google told the paper that it was cooperating with the probe.

So far, mounting pressure from regulators has not diminished Facebook’s overall performance. Facebook shares were down about 2 percent by midday Friday. The day the $5 billion fine was announced, Facebook’s market value rose more than the cost of the penalty, which represents 9 percent of the company’s 2018 revenue.

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