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Are social media companies violating anti-trust laws?

DOJ to investigate

A few very large companies dominate social media today/Tomwsulcer

The efforts of social media companies to meddle in politics may now be getting pushback from politicians:

On Thursday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that nearly half of the state attorneys general would be invited to a September 25 meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss whether social media companies are violating anti-trust laws. The DOJ announced the meeting last week, following the congressional testimony of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

This isn’t a new file.

Many attorneys general have sued Facebook and Google specifically, and not just on the conservative side of the aisle. Rhode Island’s Democrat AG Peter Kilmartin forced Google to surrender $500 million for selling illegal drugs in 2011. Mississippi’s Democrat AG Tim Hood has taken Google to court twice over illegal drugs, pirated movies, and personal data. Washington state Democrat AG Bob Ferguson sued Facebook and Google over records for political ads this summer. Tyler O’Neil, “DOJ Invites 24 State AGs to Jeff Sessions Meeting About Breaking Up Google, Facebook” at PJ Media

What’s this about Google and illegal drugs?  Ah, that takes us back to 2012:

Rhode Island will receive nearly half of $500 million Google Inc. agreed to forfeit last year for helping online Canadian pharmacies illegally sell prescription drugs to US consumers, Peter F. Neronha, the state’s US attorney, revealed on Monday…

The Google investigation was launched after the 2008 arrest in Mexico of David Whitaker, the owner of a Rhode Island company who had fled a financial fraud investigation in that state. Under questioning, Whitaker revealed that while hiding in Mexico, he had set up websites that purported to represent pharmacies in Canada, and Google’s AdWords advertising system played a major role in helping him succeed. He said the Google employees knew what he was doing, and that it was illegal, but that they helped him nevertheless. D.C. Denison, “R.I., US agencies to split $500m in Google case” at The Boston Globe

Counterfeit medicines “can contain no active ingredient, the wrong drug, the wrong dose, or drugs past their expiry dates.” Google not only knew about the practice since 2003 but provided customer support to help illegal vendors place ads and improve websites. While the trade continues, Google does not seem to be actively aiding it anymore.

However,  Google and the social media companies may be too big and too global to really care.  Unlike illicit street dealers, Google couldn’t easily be jailed. And half a billion dollars means little in that world.

On the other hand, attorneys general don’t depend on clicks and likes, real or fake, for their power either. We shall see what happens next…

See also: Google branches out into politics Unfortunately the only political model it would likely know is: One-party state

Twitter doesn’t just seem out of control It actually is.


George Gilder: Life after Google will be okay People will take ownership of their own data, cutting out the giant “middle man”

Are social media companies violating anti-trust laws?