Report: US Justice Department to Open Facebook Antitrust Investigation

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The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly planning on joining the growing cluster of agencies investigating Facebook for antitrust violations.

Bloomberg and Reuters both reported on Wednesday that each was informed by a source that the Justice Department will soon open an antitrust investigation into the social media company.

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This would only add to Facebook’s regulatory struggles, which come as big tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple are facing greater state and federal oversight as authorities and the general public are becoming more aware of these companies’ growing market influence and consumer protection failures.

Facebook is already being investigated by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, the Federal Trade Commission, and a group of state attorneys general headed by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

It is not publicly known what will be the focus of the Justice Department probe.

In July, the Department of Justice announced it had launched an expansive probe into “market-leading online platforms” to uncover if they “are engaging in practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers.” The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that the Justice Department had recently held closed-door hearings where legislators received testimony from Facebook critics.

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Facebook did not respond to a Gizmodo request for comment.

The Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Facebook—along with Google, Amazon, and Apple—partook in anti-competitive behavior. The consortium of attorneys general is trying to determine if Facebook endangered consumer protection and limited consumer choice. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the FTC was looking into Facebook’s acquisitions. Over the last 15 years, Facebook has acquired about 90 companies including WhatsApp and Instagram. And despite the increased scrutiny on its competitive practices, it’s shown no sign of slowing down with its mission to gobble up everything in sight. Just this week, the social networking behemoth purchased a CTRL-Labs, a startup focused on brain-reading technology, for somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion. 

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The anonymous source told Bloomberg that the Justice Department is looking into different conduct than what the FTC is investigating. When the FTC fined Facebook in July, the company’s stock saw a 1.8 percent boost. Perhaps one of the other investigations will actually help consumers more than Facebook.

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About the author

Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo