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Facebook hit by antitrust probe from multiple states

Attorneys general from eight states and Washington DC are coming together to investigate Facebook's dominance.

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Facebook is facing antitrust scrutiny from multiple state attorneys general.

Angela Lang/CNET

It's not just on Capitol Hill -- attorneys general from eight states and Washington DC are investigating Facebook over potential antitrust violations. For months, lawmakers have argued that Facebook needed to get broken up, and now states are taking action. 

Like Google and Amazon, Facebook has become a central force in people's lives online. It owns the largest social network in the world, along with Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp. The virtual reality company Oculus also falls under Facebook's umbrella, and critics argue that the social network has been simply buying up its competition. 

On Friday, a number of state attorneys general announced that they're launching an investigation into possible antitrust violations by Facebook. Those states are New York, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee, joined by the attorney general for Washington DC. 

The investigation will focus on "Facebook's dominance in the industry and the potential anticompetitive conduct stemming from that dominance," according to a statement. 

"Even the largest social media platform in the world must follow the law and respect consumers," New York attorney general Letitia James said in a statement. "We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook's actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers' choices, or increased the price of advertising."

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Facebook doesn't just face an antitrust investigation from these states. In June, the House antitrust subcommittee announced it was launching an investigation of Facebook, Google and other tech companies. The Federal Trade Commission is also reportedly investigating Facebook over antitrust concerns.

The company said Friday that it will work "constructively" with the attorneys general and that it will engage with policy makers in a discussion about the competitive environment.

"People have multiple choices for every one of the services we provide. We understand that if we stop innovating, people can easily leave our platform," Facebook's vice president of state and local policy, Will Castleberry, said in a statement. "This underscores the competition we face, not only in the US but around the globe."

When asked in the past if it considered itself a monopoly, Facebook would point out that "the average American uses eight different apps," saying there were plenty of choices for people if they didn't want to use Facebook. What it didn't mention is that out of the top eight apps for social media, four of them are owned by Facebook. 

Facebook has also pointed at Chinese app TikTok as a competitor in social media, even though TikTok is an active advertising customer on its network. 

Originally published at 5:41 a.m. PT.
Updated at 7:15 a.m. PT:
To include a response from Facebook.