NEW YORK — Facebook's latest foes: nearly every U.S. state.

A state-level antitrust investigation into the social networking giant now has the backing of a bipartisan group of 47 attorneys general, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Tuesday.

The Democrat launched the probe last month with seven other states and the District of Columbia. It focuses on whether Facebook's dominance is stifling competition, limiting choice for consumers and costing advertisers more money.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced in a news release Tuesday that his office is taking part in the investigation.

In an interview, Schmitt said the focus is on how Facebook is using the massive amounts of information it gathers on users of its original social media product, as well as other popular platforms it owns such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

"It is a very bipartisan coalition to sort of make sure that people’s privacy is being protected and that Facebook is honoring the commitment they have made to protect people’s privacy," Schmitt said. "It is too early to tell what the ultimate remedy will be, but there’s no question these big tech companies control a lot of information. We want to understand better what that is, how they are utilizing it, how vulnerable that data is."

The vast amount of information that will need to be examined makes it hard to estimate how long the investigation will take, Schmitt said.


The practices allowed by Facebook that have provided the user data on millions of people to be collected through seemingly innocent games and surveys worry many people.

"I can tell you as I get around Missouri that is an ongoing concern that people have, just the amount of information companies like Google and Facebook, the big companies have and what they are doing with the information," Schmitt said.

"Even the biggest of the big tech companies should be held accountable, and that’s what we’re seeking to do with this investigation,” Schmitt said in the release. “This coalition of attorneys general will investigate Facebook’s business practices to determine whether they engaged in anticompetitive behavior, put user data at risk, reduced consumer choice, and more.”

"Big Tech must account for its actions," Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican, said in a statement.

The group of attorneys general also worries about Facebook's handling of customer data, James said. That drew scrutiny after firms were able to harvest information in attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The group backing the state-level probe by the seven states and Washington now includes 21 Democratic attorneys general, 18 Republicans and an independent from 39 states and Guam. The list also includes several states that cannot confirm their participation in pending investigations, James said.

Facebook and other tech giants have also been feeling the heat from federal regulators. The Federal Trade Commission recently fined Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations, but consumer advocates and some public officials criticized that as too lenient.

A separate investigation, led by Texas and supported by attorneys general from 48 states, including Missouri, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia is looking at whether Google is engaging in monopolistic behavior with its dominant online search and advertising business.

"Google is a major player in almost every phase of a transaction," Schmitt said.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat involved in both investigations, said in a statement that he wants to ensure Facebook is "giving a fair shake" to the American people.

"No company gets a pass if it throttles competitors and exploits consumers," Racine said.