Facebook Inc. and Google are facing intensifying scrutiny by state law enforcement officers with authority to impose vast fines and even break up companies that are found to have violated antitrust and privacy rules.
New York is leading a coalition of states in a wide-ranging investigation of Facebook and the Texas attorney general said Friday that he’ll announce a separate multi-state probe Monday into anti-competitive behavior by large tech companies. Bloomberg reported this week that the investigation is targeting Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
The developments create fresh problems for Facebook and Google after a wave of criticism by politicians from both parties over their market dominance. And on Sept. 12, the House subcommittee focused on antitrust law will hold a hearing on the impact of data and privacy. The state probes target a wide range of practices that generate billions of dollars in revenue for the world’s biggest social-media company and the largest seller of search-based advertising.
Federal antitrust enforcers have also opened investigations. Google disclosed on Friday that it has received from the Justice Department a civil investigative demand, which is akin to a subpoena. The demand seeks information and documents relating to all prior antitrust investigations of the company.
“We expect to receive in the future similar investigative demands from state attorneys general,” the company said in a regulatory filing.
The Justice Department is probing Google’s role in the online advertising market and its search operations and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is scrutinizing acquisitions by Facebook as part of an early stage antitrust investigation of the social media platform, Bloomberg has reported.
Earlier on Friday, New York Attorney General Letitia James had said that the probe she’s leading will examine whether Facebook stifled competition and put users at risk by increasing the price of advertising, reducing consumer-choice quality and mishandling personal information.
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal,” said James, a Democrat. “Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said the investigation his state is leading will focus on “whether large tech companies have engaged in anti-competitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.”
He didn’t specify which companies would be probed.