The FTC and state attorneys general are reportedly aiming up to 4 new antitrust lawsuits at Facebook and Google as talk of regulation continues to heat up

The FTC and state attorneys general are reportedly aiming up to 4 new antitrust lawsuits at Facebook and Google as talk of regulation continues to heat up
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  • The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general are gearing up to hit Google and Facebook with new antitrust lawsuits in the coming weeks, per a Monday report from The Wall Street Journal.
  • The probes will focus on whether the companies have had unfair advantages in their domination of the search and ad market and social media.
  • The DOJ and state attorneys generals have been probing aspects of Google's business, including its 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 first major US government antitrust action taken against the social media company.

Federal and state officials are gearing up to slap Facebook and Google with up to four new antitrust lawsuits by the end of January 2021, according to a Monday report from The Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuits are intended to determine if the internet giants improperly used their power in the online marketplace, per the report, and will be launched by the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general, and other authorities.

50 state attorneys general led by Ken Paxton of Texas teamed up in 2019 to launch an investigation, not a lawsuit, into Google over anticompetitive practices in its ad business. Some of those attorneys general teamed up with the US Department of Justice in an October lawsuit against the firm. Others are gearing up to launch more cases in the coming weeks, including one coalition led by Paxton that could be filed in mid-December, according to the WSJ.

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The FTC is ready to approve a lawsuit against Facebook in the coming days, per the report, over the company's acquisition of would-be competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. As the outlet notes, a case against Facebook would be the US government's first major antitrust action 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 of the new cases comes after the DOJ filed a lawsuit against Google in October accusing the company of harnessing an unfair advantage in the search and online ad market. It's the largest legal challenge that Google has faced, one that could stretch out in court for years, and could result in the firm being forced to separate aspects of its business if the government wins. A successful lawsuit could also have consequences for Amazon, Facebook, and Apple.

Read more: Legal experts say the government's 'Microsoft' strategy in its antitrust case against Google is smart, but a forced breakup may still be a long shot

The Big Four have become well acquainted with US lawmakers recently after Congress kicked off what has become a yearlong investigation into competition in the online marketplace, signaling a big step toward laying the groundwork for regulation in the tech world. Scrutiny of the companies has increased following a so-called "Techlash" that picked up steam in 2018 when the public became more aware of online platforms' role in issues such as user data, abuse of power, and election interference.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai appeared in front of lawmakers in late July to face questioning, an event that marked the first time the CEOs testified at the same congressional hearing. House Democrats released a report of their findings in early October, declaring the companies to be monopolies that need to be regulated and even potentially broken up.

The companies also face scrutiny outside of the US — the EU filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon in early November, accusing the company of using third-party sellers' data to inform its own retail strategies. The EU also slammed Apple with an antitrust investigation in June to determine if the company gave its Apple Pay service an unfair advantage over competitors.


Regulation of the industry has become heavily politicized in the US. Republicans and Democrats have called for social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to take more accountability in how it operates its online platforms. However, the two parties differ in their motivations — Democrats advocate for companies to police the spread of misinformation and hate speech online and Republicans typically lambaste the firms for allegedly discriminating against conservative content.