The investigation will examine “Facebook’s dominance in the industry and the potential anti-competitive conduct stemming from that dominance,” her office said in a press release. It will include the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.
“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers. I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk,” James said in a statement. “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.”
Facebook, in a statement obtained by HuffPost, defended its work and services, arguing that if it doesn’t stay innovative and competitive it will fail.
“People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide. We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform. This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe,” said Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president of state and local policy. “We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate.”
James’ announcement follows Facebook in July agreeing to pay a record $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it committed privacy violations following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The company also agreed to institute new oversight and restrictions upon itself.
A separate antitrust investigation by state attorneys general into Google’s Alphabet Inc. is meanwhile expected to be announced on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will reportedly lead that investigation.
In another case, Google this week agreed to pay the FTC $170 million to settle allegations that its YouTube video service unlawfully collected children’s personal data without their parents’ consent. A 1998 federal law requires kids under 13 years of age to obtain their parents’ consent before companies can collect and share their personal information.
Google, Facebook and other tech giants have faced similar scrutiny elsewhere in the world, with the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, having slapped Google with $9.5 billion in antitrust fines since 2017, CNBC reported.
The European Commission announced this week that it will examine Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency, Libra, to see if it could harm competition.
This story has been updated with a response from Facebook.