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DOJ: State AGs could make good partners in big tech antitrust probes

Facebook and Google are taking heat from the federal government as well as the states.

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Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division.

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Facebook and Google are facing antitrust scrutiny from all sides -- from both state officials and federal regulators. The Department of Justice is probing the companies, while state attorneys general are also looking into their potentially monopolistic practices.

But while those probes may be separate, investigators from both levels of government could make helpful allies. 

"States can be important partners," Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division, said Tuesday. He made the remarks at the Wall Street Journal's Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California.

Neither Google nor Facebook immediately responded to requests for comment. 

Silicon Valley is facing intense scrutiny when it comes to antitrust issues. Google in July acknowledged that it was under investigation by the Justice Department. The DOJ is also opening a probe into Facebook, according to a report last month by Reuters.

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Meanwhile, the states have turned up the heat as well. Texas AG Ken Paxton is leading a coalition of 50 attorneys general over Google's business practices when it comes to its massive digital advertising operation. And in September, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a probe into Facebook. The investigation will focus on "Facebook's dominance in the industry and the potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that dominance," James' office said in a statement at the time. 

On Tuesday, James trumpeted additional support for the Facebook probe, announcing that the investigation will have participation from 47 attorneys general from around the nation.

But while Delrahim said the states and the federal government could make good partners, he allowed that their interests could also "diverge." That's because the state AGs are elected officials who may have to appeal to their constituents, while he is an appointed official. 

"But I think at this point it's safe to say it's strong [bipartisanship]," Delrahim said. "The states and Justice Department agree as far as a direction of an investigation."