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AG James to lead multistate Facebook antitrust investigation

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is leading a multi-state probe into whether Facebook illegally stifled competition. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

New York Attorney General Letitia James and several other U.S. state attorneys general will investigate Facebook on whether the social network stifled competition and put users at risk, days after reports that Google would face an antitrust probe from a host of attorneys general.

Facebook, which owns one-time rivals Instagram and WhatsApp and has more than 1.5 billion daily users, has a huge influence in many countries and has been criticized for allowing misleading posts and so-called "fake news" on its service.

Google has faced accusations that its web search service, which has become so dominant that it is now a verb, leads consumers to its own products at the cost of competitors.

"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," tweeted James, who is leading the probe by a bipartisan coalition. "The largest social media platform in the world must follow the law."

Attorneys general investigating the company also include those of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, according to a statement. 

James' office said it expected more states to join the investigation.

Will Castleberry, Facebook's vice president for state and local policy, said the company would work constructively with state attorneys general.

"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 United States but around the globe," Castleberry said.

In July, the U.S. Justice Department said it was opening a broad investigation of major digital technology firms, focusing on whether they engage in anticompetitive practices. The investigation is believed to target Google, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook, and potentially Apple Inc.

Separately, the Federal Trade Commission, which also enforces antitrust laws, is probing Amazon and Facebook to determine if they abused their massive market power in retail and social media, respectively.

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