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48 State, Federal Attorneys General Expected To File Antitrust Lawsuits Against Facebook Wednesday



(Washington Post) — More than 40 attorneys general and the U.S. government are preparing to file antitrust lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday, alleging that the tech giant engaged in unlawful, anticompetitive tactics to buy or kill off its rivals and solidify its dominance in social networking.

The states’ lawsuit in particular is expected to allege that Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, a photo-sharing app, and WhatsApp, a messaging service, marked a pattern of behavior to neutralize competitive threats — allowing Facebook to become a market leader while depriving users of privacy-protective alternatives.

Three people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a law enforcement proceeding, described the lawsuits and their timing while cautioning that the plans could still change. They said Democratic and Republican attorneys general, led by New York’s Letitia James (D), are expected to ask a judge as part of the legal salvos to consider a wide array of potential redress — including forcing Facebook to sell off some of its business to address competition concerns.

State officials are also expected to petition a judge to require Facebook to inform them before proceeding with any significant future transactions, according to the sources.

The states are coordinating their lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission, which joined the attorneys general in opening a probe into Facebook last year. The agency also plans to file as soon as Wednesday, the sources said, and its case is expected to track at least the broad contours of the states’ claims, which The Washington Post first reported last month.

A spokesman for James declined to comment. The FTC also declined to comment. Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. investigators initiated antitrust probes targeting Facebook last year. Dozens of attorneys general, led by James, promised a broad review, aiming to explore Facebook’s digital dominance and its ever-growing efforts to siphon users’ data. The FTC, meanwhile, took aim at Facebook almost immediately after concluding an investigation into the company over its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, that forced the tech giant to pay a $5 billion penalty.

Facebook, for its part, has mounted a massive lobbying offensive to try to rebut the allegations. Publicly, the company and its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have sought to stress that Facebook’s purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp helped them grow into viable services in a larger market where newcomers, such as TikTok, are still able to thrive.

“A strongly competitive landscape existed at the time of both acquisitions and exists today,” spokesman Chris Sgro said in a statement in October. “Regulators thoroughly reviewed each deal and rightly did not see any reason to stop them at the time.”

But state and federal regulators have come to view Facebook’s ascendance much differently, and their imminent antitrust lawsuits are expected to lay out in wide-ranging detail how the company engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to reach a pole position in social networking.

With WhatsApp, for example, antitrust investigators have seized on Facebook’s earlier promise to users that it would preserve the messaging company’s independence and strong privacy protections, according to the three sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. But Facebook reversed course after it bought the company in 2014 and recently has sought to integrate its users’ data with the social networking site’s other services, sparking global concern given the company’s past privacy mishaps.

In other cases, investigators have focused on Facebook’s trove of information and the extent to which the tech giant has sought to weaponize it to quash potential rival developers, the sources said. State and federal antitrust agencies have explored how Facebook’s power and reach — and its unrivaled ability to occupy users’ time and eyeballs in the absence of alternatives — have allowed the company to maximize its profits as advertisers gravitate toward the platform, according to two of the sources.

Here’s the 48-state multi-state coalition lawsuit that is suing Facebook, located here.

Here’s the lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission. Their lawsuit is located here.

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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow




The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President




(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris




(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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