47 attorneys general back antitrust probe into Facebook

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FILE – This July 16, 2013, file photo, shows a sign at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook says it has suspended tens of thousands of apps made by about 400 developers as part of an investigation following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Starting in March 2018, Facebook started looking into the apps that have access to its users’ data. The probe came after revelations that data mining firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten data from millions of Facebook users through an app, then used the data to try to influence U.S. elections. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Facebook’s latest foes: nearly every U.S. state.

A state-level antitrust investigation into the social networking giant now has the backing of a bipartisan group of 47 attorneys general, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday.

The Democrat launched the probe last month with seven other states and the District of Columbia. It focuses on whether Facebook’s dominance is stifling competition, limiting choice for consumers and costing advertisers more money.

“Big Tech must account for its actions,” Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said in a statement.

The group of attorneys general also worries about Facebook’s handling of customer data, James said. That drew scrutiny after firms were able to harvest information in attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The group backing the state-level probe by the seven states and Washington now includes 21 Democratic attorneys general, 18 Republicans and an independent from 39 states and Guam. The list also includes several states that cannot confirm their participation in pending investigations, James said.

Facebook and other tech giants have also been feeling the heat from federal regulators. The Federal Trade Commission recently fined Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations, but consumer advocates and some public officials criticized that as too lenient.

A separate investigation, led by Texas and supported by attorneys general from 48 states, Puerto Rico and Washington is looking at whether Google is engaging in monopolistic behavior with its dominant online search and advertising business.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat involved in both investigations, said in a statement that he wants to ensure Facebook is “giving a fair shake” to the American people.

“No company gets a pass if it throttles competitors and exploits consumers,” Racine said.

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