Almost every state attorney general in the country is now investigating Facebook, escalating the overlapping risks faced by the social media giant from multiple levels of government.
A total of 47 states have now signed onto the roster of Attorneys General Offices that are probing Facebook for possible anti-competitive behavior, New York’s State Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the coalition, announced on Monday. Only eight other AGs were originally part of her office’s effort to scrutinize Facebook.
All told, the breadth of the probe speaks to the political discomfort with Facebook from both Republicans and Democrats, although sometimes for different reasons. Support comes from political leaders as diverse as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is a Tea Party conservative, to Pennsylvania’s Democratic AG Josh Shapiro.
“Our investigation now has the support of 47 attorneys general from around the nation, who are all concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising,” James said in a statement. “As we continue our investigation, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions stifled competition and put users at risk.”
The AGs are discussing topics that include Facebook’s prior acquisitions of startups, including WhatsApp and Instagram, and how it handles user data, according to CNN.
In response to the news of the expanded probe, Facebook stressed in a statement that it faced substantial competition both in the US and around the world.
“We will work constructively with state attorneys general and we welcome a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which we operate,” the company said.
These attorneys general will primarily be looking at possible violations of state laws, but James’s probe is just one of the dizzying and multiplying array of investigations that Facebook has to handle. The Federal Trade Commission is also looking at Facebook for possible antitrust violations following a separate FTC settlement for $5 billion earlier this year over privacy violations.
Congress and the Department of Justice have their own broad probes of Big Tech, including Facebook but also Apple, Amazon, and Google.
Almost all state attorneys general are already looking into Google, a probe led by Paxton that similarly has help from 50 other state attorneys general.
“We’re prepared for whatever the right thing to do is for consumers,” Paxton has said. “All of that’s on the table based on what we learn.”