Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken aggressive action against leading tech companies, filing high-profile litigation against Google and Facebook for alleged violations of antitrust and consumer protection laws. Paxton’s office is also investigating possible First Amendment violations by Twitter in connection with the deplatforming of former President Trump and others. Paxton isn’t alone in his crusade against big tech—fellow attorneys general and even the Biden administration are on board. In January 2023, President Biden called on Congress to enact bipartisan legislation to rein in big tech companies, urging lawmakers to address privacy, algorithmic responsibility, and competition.
In recent years, Paxton’s office has filed major litigation (sometimes, as part of a coalition with the federal government and other state attorneys general) against Google and Facebook for alleged violations of antitrust and consumer protection laws. Four of those lawsuits are discussed here.
Texas v. Google
October 2020—Texas joins other attorneys general in lawsuit against Google for monopolizing Internet search
The U.S. attorney general and a coalition of state attorneys general sued Google in federal court in Washington, D.C. in October 2020. United States of America, et al. v. Google LLC, Case No. 1:20-cv-03010. The complaint alleges that Google has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by entering exclusionary agreements to “maintain monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising in the United States.”
December 2020—Texas-led coalition sues Google for anti-competitive conduct in advertising
A multistate coalition led by the State of Texas sued Google in December 2020, accusing the company of anti-competitive conduct in advertising. State of Texas, et al. v. Google LLC, Case No. 4:20-cv-00957.
The case was transferred from the Eastern District of Texas to the Southern District of New York in August 2021. State of Texas, et al. v. Google, LLC, Case No. 1:21-cv-06841.
The coalition sued Google under both Sections 1 and 2 of the federal Sherman Act and state antitrust laws. Section 1 of the Sherman Act prohibits concerted activity that results in an “unreasonable restraint of trade,” and Section 2 prohibits monopolization, whether by concerted or unilateral activity. The complaint alleges that Google “deceptively us[es] individuals’ personal information to engage in targeted digital advertising” and has “repeatedly and brazenly violated antitrust and consumer protective laws” in order to “cement its dominance across online display markets.”
October 2022—Paxton sues Google for its unauthorized capture and use of biometric data
In October 2022, Paxton sued Google in Texas state court under the state’s Capture or Use of Biometric Identifier Act (CUBI). The petition alleges that Google has captured and used the biometric data of millions of Texans through Google Photos without properly obtaining their informed consent to do so. The case is set for trial on September 9, 2024.
Texas v. Facebook
December 2020—Texas joins 47 other attorneys general in lawsuit against Facebook for monopolizing the social networking market
In December 2020, Texas joined a bipartisan, New York-led coalition of 48 states to sue Facebook in D.C. federal court. State of New York, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., Case No. 1:20-cv-03589.
The complaint alleges that Facebook monopolizes the personal social networking marketing in the United States by using a “buy-or-bury strategy” against competitors, in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act and Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”
In June 2021, the federal court granted Facebook’s Motion to Dismiss and dismissed the case. The States appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. State of New York, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., Case No. 21-7078. As of January 2023, the appeal is still pending.