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The Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general are preparing to hit Google and Facebook with new antitrust lawsuits in the coming weeks, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday. The research will focus on whether the companies have had an unfair advantage in dominating the search, advertising and social media markets. The DOJ and attorneys general have been investigating aspects of Google’s business, including search, online advertising, and Android practices, since 2019. The DOJ filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google in October. But if the government sued Facebook, it would be the U.S. government’s first major antitrust move against the social media company. You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
Federal and state officials are preparing to beat Facebook and Google with up to four new antitrust lawsuits by the end of January 2021, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Monday.
The lawsuits, designed to determine whether the internet giants have improperly used their power in the online marketplace, are initiated by the Federal Trade Commission, attorneys general and other agencies, according to the report.
50 Texas attorneys general, led by Ken Paxton, have teamed up in 2019 to initiate an investigation, not a lawsuit, against Google for anti-competitive practices in the advertising business. Some of these attorneys general partnered with the US Department of Justice in a lawsuit against the firm in October. Others are preparing to launch more cases in the coming weeks, including a Paxton-led coalition that could be filed in mid-December, according to the WSJ.
According to the report, the FTC is ready to approve a lawsuit against Facebook in the coming days over the company’s takeover of potential rivals Instagram and WhatsApp. As the point of sale notes, a case against Facebook would be the first major antitrust action by the US government against the social media company.
Google declined to comment on the new report. Facebook did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The report on the new cases comes after the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Google in October accusing the company of taking an unfair advantage in the search and online advertising market. This is the biggest legal challenge that Google faces. This could stretch for years in court, forcing the company to separate aspects of its business if the government wins. A successful lawsuit could also have ramifications for Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
Continue reading: Legal experts say the government’s strategy of Microsoft in its antitrust proceedings against Google is wise, but a forced separation may be far from complete
The Big Four got to know US lawmakers well recently after Congress launched a year-long investigation into competition in the online marketplace, a huge step in laying the foundations for regulation in the tech world. Corporate control has increased following a so-called “techlash” that gained momentum in 2018 as the public became more aware of the role of online platforms on issues such as user data, abuse of power and voting disorder.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared before lawmakers in late July to ask questions. This was the first time the CEOs testified at the same hearing in Congress. The House Democrats published a report on their results in early October, declaring the companies monopolies that need to be regulated and possibly even dissolved.
Companies are also being scrutinized outside of the United States. The EU filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon in early November, accusing the company of using third-party data to inform about its own retail strategies. The EU held Apple in June with an antitrust investigation to determine whether the company had given its Apple Pay service an unfair advantage over competitors.
The regulation of the industry has been heavily politicized in the USA. Republicans and Democrats have urged social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to take more responsibility for the operation of their online platforms. The two parties differ in their motivations, however: Democrats advocate that companies monitor the spread of misinformation and hate speech online, and Republicans typically accuse companies of discriminating against conservative content.