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Elizabeth Warren Asks DOJ To Probe Google-Facebook Ad Deal

 |  September 1, 2021

Four members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into whether an advertising agreement between Facebook and Alphabet violated federal antitrust laws.

The letter, signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Democrat – Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (Democrat – Connecticut), and Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Democrat – Washington), and Mondaire Jones (Democrat – New York), was sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting US Attorney Nicholas Ganjei.

Federal criminal cases can take years, but a probe would form a new front in the multi-pronged effort to rein in Big Tech. Prior efforts against the tech giants have largely been in the form of civil litigation, directives to federal agencies, and proposed legislation. The Federal Trade Commission has filed a civil suit against Facebook for alleged antitrust activities.

The letter takes issue with an agreement between Google and Facebook executives. Information about the pact, nicknamed “Jedi Blue,” and Google’s alleged efforts to secure dominance in online advertising were first outlined in the Texas-led complaint last year and subsequent court documents, some of which were improperly redacted. The suit alleges that Google executives “induced” senior Facebook staff to agree to a plan to undermine competition in digital advertising. Many of the accusations in the Texas-led suit relate to Google’s ad technology, which companies use to buy and sell ads on the web.

The letter notes that in exchange for backing off technology that threatened Google’s dominance, Facebook received a fixed percentage of ad bids on Google’s platform.

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