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Facebook to be probed by US state Attorneys General for possible antitrust violations

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Several U.S. state attorneys general will investigate Facebook Inc 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.

A 3-D printed Facebook logo is seen in front of displayed binary code in this illustration picture. Reuters

“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 New York AG Letitia James, who is leading the probe.

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

The New York attorney general’s office said it expected more states to join the investigation.

“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,” said Will Castleberry, Facebook’s vice president for state and local policy.

Castleberry added that the company would work constructively with state attorneys general.

The company’s shares were down 2 percent in early trading.

Reuters and other media outlets reported on Tuesday that more than 30 U.S. state attorneys general, led by Texas, were readying an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google for potential antitrust violations, to be announced on Sept. 9.

The probe on Google is focused on the intersection of privacy and antitrust, a source told Reuters.

Google has said that it was cooperating with the state officials.

Technology companies are facing a backlash in the United States and across the world, fueled by concerns among competitors, lawmakers and consumer groups that the firms have too much power and are harming users and business rivals.

U.S. President Donald Trump has also called for closer scrutiny of social media firms and Google, accusing them of suppressing conservative voices online, without presenting any evidence.

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 also probing Amazon and Facebook to determine if they abused their massive market power in retail and social media, respectively.

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