South Dakota joins to put pressure on federal tech probe

(Photo: Pixabay)

NEW YORK (AP) – Two groups of state attorneys general are launching separate antitrust investigations into Facebook and Google.

South Dakota’s Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg will join a bipartisan group of AGs Monday in D.C. to “launch one of the group’s multi-state investigation into whether large tech companies have engaged in anti-competitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.”

Antitrust experts note that state authorities have stepped in before when it seemed federal enforcers weren't doing much. The states opening their own investigations can increase pressure on the federal government to take action against the companies.

Jay Himes, an antitrust lawyer who used to run the antitrust bureau for the New York Attorney General, says "states see it as part of their role to fill a vacuum." He says there is skepticism about what may result from the Justice Department's investigation given the lack of cases the agency has brought. He notes criticisms that the Federal Trade Commission didn't do more to force changes on Facebook when it fined the social media company $5 billion recently for privacy violations.

Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, says this is the beginning of a period of "state activism" in antitrust enforcement that is a "needed counterpoint to weak enforcement" under the Trump administration. She notes the antitrust probes of the tech companies as well as the states' case against T-Mobile's takeover of rival wireless carrier Sprint.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)