State attorneys met with Attorney General Bill Barr on Thursday to address growing antitrust concerns with the tech industry. The DoJ is currently conducting a review of online media companies and whether they are stifling their competition. New York, Texas, Arizona and Louisiana were among the states meeting with Barr.
“Our bipartisan coalition of eight state attorneys general was pleased with the opportunity to meet with U.S. Attorney General Barr to talk about the real concerns consumers across the country have with big tech companies stifling competition on the internet,” participating states said in a joint statement. “It was a productive meeting and we’re considering a range of possible antitrust actions against such companies.”
The states have a skeptical disposition towards the tech companies. “We have concerns about the size of these tech companies and will hold them accountable for anti-competitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data,” said New York Attorney General Tish James.
Arizona has already opened a state investigation into Google. “We are all aware that DOJ has an antitrust review of big tech companies underway, and the states are currently weighing all of their options and possible courses of action,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesperson for the Arizona AG’s office. “There’s not many things Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump agree upon, but that should demonstrate the seriousness of these issues and the extent to which all options are being considered.”
Earlier this week it was revealed that the Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust investigation into tech giant Facebook. This new investigation is not to be confused with the FTC’s recent $5 billion fine levied against the social media company for privacy violations. From ArsTechnica:
Regulation is one of the biggest risks for Facebook, the company said in its quarterly financial filing. The company warned it could have stalled growth or could outright lose some of its 2.4 billion users if “there are changes mandated by legislation, regulatory authorities, or litigation that adversely affect our products or users,” or if it sees decreased engagement as part of changes it implemented in response to the GDPR in Europe and similar changes it made in the US.
“We have been subject to regulatory and other government investigations, enforcement actions, and settlements, and we expect to continue to be subject to such,” Facebook added, which could “incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a matter materially adverse to our business.”
The FTC settlement will require that Facebook certify it is protecting user data. “Despite repeated promises to its billions of users worldwide that they could control how their personal information is shared, Facebook undermined consumers’ choices,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a release. “The relief is designed not only to punish future violations but, more importantly, to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.” Will the $5 billion hurt the company? Last year Facebook clocked in profits at $22 billion.
(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)