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Facebook sued by 46 states, FTC for alleged antitrust violations

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In a bipartisan move, a group of 46 U.S. state attorneys general, led by New York’s attorney general, launched a colossal antitrust lawsuit against Facebook on Wednesday, alleging that the social media giant has been operating as an illegal monopoly. Separately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched its own lawsuit, alleging antitrust violations, which The Wall Street Journal called “it’s most ambitious [case] in recent memory”.

The core of the allegations surround claims that Facebook’s purchasing of Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion, in addition to other tinier technology companies, were executed for the purpose of crushing the competition.

The FTC, in its filing, wants to make Facebook sell both social media apps.

The FTC’s lawsuit comes after a more than year-long investigation into the company, with the commission voting 3-2 in favor of filing the case in a Washington, DC federal court. The commission’s suit had been in the works for months, The Journal reports.

“After identifying two significant competitive threats to its dominant position—Instagram and WhatsApp—Facebook moved to squelch those threats by buying the companies, reflecting CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s view, expressed in a 2008 email, that ‘it is better to buy than compete,’” the FTC’s lawsuit states.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) announced on Wednesday the 46-state lawsuit, which also includes the District of Columbia and Guam, saying in a Twitter thread, “We are taking action to stand up for the millions of consumers and many small businesses that have been harmed by Facebook’s illegal behavior.”

“Facebook has used its monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users. Instead of improving its own product, Facebook took advantage of consumers and made billions of dollars converting their personal data into a cash cow,” James added.

Facebook responded to the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon on Twitter, saying that it is reviewing the complaints and will offer more information from its end “soon.”

“We’re reviewing the complaints & will have more to say soon,” the statement reads. “Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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NY Lawmakers want to tax tech giants to get $500M to fund unemployment benefits for illegal migrants

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New York lawmakers are debating over a proposed Democratic initiative that would pave the way for a multibillion-dollar fund designed to provide unemployment benefits for illegal immigrants. Spearheaded by state Senator Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, the proposal has ignited passionate discussions within the Senate Finance Committee, where it currently awaits further deliberation.

The Center Square reports the proposal would utilize a $500 million trust fund earmarked specifically to offer jobless benefits for individuals who find themselves ineligible for traditional unemployment payments and other public assistance programs. To finance this ambitious endeavor, proponents of the plan are advocating for the imposition of a novel tax targeting tech behemoths like Google and Amazon. This tax, aimed at digital advertising revenue, is projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to sustain the fund.

Ramos has alluded to her belief that migrants are a fundamental contribution to the state’s economy. Despite their authorization to work, payment of taxes, and active involvement in the labor force, undocumented immigrants face a glaring disparity—they are excluded from accessing vital safety nets like unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.

In a social media post, Ramos cited the expiration of federal unemployment insurance for freelancers and the depletion of the Excluded Workers Fund. She argues vehemently for a safety net aligned with the evolving dynamics of the labor market, one that extends support to all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

The proposed fund, aptly named the Unemployment Bridge Program, outlines comprehensive eligibility criteria encompassing a spectrum of marginalized workers—from undocumented migrants to freelancers and individuals recently released from incarceration or immigrant detention. By establishing clear guidelines and procedures, the program endeavors to streamline the application process, ensuring equitable access to unemployment benefits for those in need.

The initiative comes in the wake of prolonged deliberations regarding jobless benefits for undocumented immigrants and nontraditional workers in New York. Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously allocated $2.1 billion to the Excluded Workers Fund, offering a lifeline to those excluded from conventional unemployment benefits.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 underscores a commitment to supporting asylum seekers, with significant allocations directed towards housing and legal assistance. The proposal has met with opposition from Republicans, who argue for prioritizing legal residents and taxpayers in the allocation of state resources. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt contends that limited resources should be reserved exclusively for those who have contributed to the state’s tax base.

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