FTC Will Meet State Attorney Generals To Discuss Facebook and Google

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is preparing to meet with state attorneys general to discuss concerns about dominant technology platforms, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, said Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

“What we have here is different layers of problems all surrounding big tech as a whole,” Landry, a Republican, told Bloomberg TV in an interview Thursday. “These are issues that attorney generals around the country on both sides of the aisle have been discussing for quite some time now.”

Bloomberg reported that a group of attorneys general are investigating possible antitrust or consumer protection violations by Google. The FTC is also probing Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a British political consultancy with ties to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign obtained the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent. That breach spawned multiple state inquiries.

The meeting with the FTC was originally set for last week, but is being rescheduled, Landry added.

States frequently conduct investigations alongside their federal counterparts, such as the FTC or the Justice Department’s antitrust division. Joining forces allows the states to benefit by sharing resources and information, potentially achieving outcomes -- especially when giant corporations are involved -- that would be difficult to obtain on their own.

The FTC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Landry, who said he’s been part of “a number of discussions” about Google with his state counterparts, outlined concerns including the company’s dominant role in the online ad ecosystem. Google, the largest digital ad seller, also owns many of the systems for the buying and selling of online ads. He compared that to a bank owning a stock exchange:

“Would the FTC allow Chase or Goldman-Sachs to own the Nasdaq?” Landry said. “The answer to that would be absolutely not.”

As criticism of the large technology platforms becomes increasingly bipartisan, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, has proposed stopping big online companies that own marketplaces from participating in them.

“I think it may be a road that may have to be traveled on,” Landry said of Warren’s breakup proposals. “I think that attorney generals around the country are leaving all of the tools in the toolbox.”

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