A bipartisan investigation involving no fewer than 40 state attorneys general are now set to kick off into both Google and Facebook, the Wall Street Journal reports. There will be two inquiries in total.
The former probe will be led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and examine Google. New York Attorney General Letitia James will head the efforts against Facebook.
More details about the investigations are set to become available on Monday, following a press conference outside the US Supreme Court.
While separate, the two investigations are tied together by one underlying goal. According to Attorney General James, the effort will be comprised of "a multistate investigation into whether large tech companies have engaged in anti-competitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers."
Specifically, the probe into Google will reportedly examine its impact on digital advertising in markets it participates in. Control of users' personal data will be central to the Facebook inquiry.
State Facebook & Google Investigation will prop up Federal inquiries
A federal investigation is already underway for both companies expected to fall under the new probes. In fact, these will represent just one of many ongoing investigations into a wide swath of the U.S. tech industry from Facebook and its subsidiaries through Google, Twitter, and all the way to Amazon.
Among those, Facebook and Google have stared down increasing scrutiny stemming from investigations last year. Those looked into a broad number of questions about biases, influence, misappropriation or misuse of user data, and protections on user data.
The most recent reports stemming from those indicate that Google's YouTube will pay millions of dollars in fines. It may be looking at platform ramifications due to breaches of child privacy and safety laws.
That would likely entail moving all content related to children to the less creator-friendly YouTube Kids platform. More pertinent to this latest inquiry, the company has already faced similar antitrust cases in the EU. Those are cases it ultimately lost to the tune of nearly $2 billion.
Facebook, conversely, has faced even greater scrutiny over its practices. In the wake of its Cambridge Analytica scandal centered around the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the company has been embattled with similar investigations almost constantly.
It hasn't just been government entities looking into Facebook either. Some shareholders have made calls for CEO and Chairman Mark Zuckerberg to step down at least one of his posts.
There has also been some talk of serving the executive with severe personal consequences over Facebook's practices. Those have ranged from personal fines to jail time. The ongoing investigations have included help from past executives, including at least one co-founder.
Tech giants face a real risk of being broken up
The new investigations bring at least one other possible consequence for the companies into sharp focus. Namely, lawmakers and other government officials have made repeated calls to break them up.
That wouldn't be unheard of in the country but is in stark contrast to ongoing or recently completed mergers between other tech giants such as Sprint and T-Mobile or AT&T and Time Warner.
This is a bipartisan effort in the midst of an otherwise staunchly split U.S. government. So Google and Facebook could be much closer to being split up, depending on its outcome.