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Does Facebook have a monopoly over your data? Network faces antitrust scrutiny

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Does Facebook’s dominance put users at risk? A new bipartisan coalition consisting of the attorneys general from eight states and the District of Colombia is now investigating the social media giant for antitrust violations, alleging Facebook “stifled competition” in a way that may have impacted user data and ad prices. New York Attorney General Letitia James confirmed the investigation on Friday, September 6.

“Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers,” James said in a statement. “I am proud to be leading a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in investigating whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk. We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising.”

According to the Washington Post, Google is expected to face similar investigations. An official announcement hasn’t yet been made, but is expected on Monday, the Post says. According to the report, more than half of the state attorneys general will participate in the investigation of Google, which will likely focus on how it uses personal data and how its algorithm affects search results.

The coalition joins a Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust investigation into the social network, scrutinizing Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp. The FTC investigation is examining whether Facebook purposely bought out those competing platforms to create a monopoly or otherwise restrict trade.

The new coalition is also scrutinizing Facebook’s lead in the social media industry and other “anticompetitive conduct,” the investigation announcement reads. Along with New York, the coalition includes the attorney generals from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C.

The coalition’s investigation will look into whether Facebook’s actions had an impact on user data, as well as if the network’s dominance raised the prices of social media ads.

Current antitrust laws prohibit “every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade” and “monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize.” Facebook leads the list of social media networks with 2.41 billion monthly active users on Facebook itself and 2.7 billion people using at least one Facebook-owned app, which also includes Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

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