Missouri is among 47 U.S. states forming a coalition aimed at investigating Facebook’s potential antitrust violations.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced his office’s participation in the multistate coalition Tuesday. The coalition plans to investigate whether Facebook has “harmed competition, raised prices for advertising, reduced the quality of consumer experiences, or misused consumer data,” according to a news release from Schmitt’s office.

“Even the biggest of the big tech companies should be held accountable, and that’s what we’re seeking to do with this investigation,” Schmitt said in a news release. “This coalition of attorneys general will investigate Facebook’s business practices to determine whether they engaged in anticompetitive behavior, put user data at risk, reduced consumer choice, and more.”

The investigation was launched by New York State Attorney General Letitia James in early September. Along with James, original participants were the attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

Since then, more than 40 states and territories joined the investigation, including Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the territory of Guam.

“Our investigation now has the support of 47 attorneys general from around the nation, who are all concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising,” James said in a news release updating the investigation’s progress. “As we continue our investigation, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions stifled competition and put users at risk.”

Chris Nuelle, Schmitt’s press secretary, said the attorney general’s office has been investigating data privacy since the start of an investigation launched by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., when he was attorney general. Hawley’s recent criticisms of Facebook were also part of the reason Schmitt decided to join the coalition.

“Facebook has definitely been on our radar for a while,” Nuelle said. “We saw this opportunity with all this bipartisan might here with all these states, and we were like, ‘Well, this is definitely something that we should take part in.’”

Although the investigation’s scope is antitrust violations, Nuelle said the investigation could produce other findings.

“What this investigation seeks to do is take a look at these business practices, review these business practices and see if they’ve engaged in anticompetitive behavior or if it leads down another path,” Nuelle said. “Then we follow that path.”

  • State government reporter, fall 2019. I am a junior studying investigative journalism. Reach me at crosen@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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