Facebook has one positive PR item to tick off today and a couple of negatives as the New York attorney general announces that 45 states and the District of Columbia and Guam have joined her antitrust probe into Facebook.
In addition to two parallel antitrust investigations ongoing at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook is facing a third effort now underway with the support of 47 attorneys general from U.S. states and D.C. New York AG Leticia James, who is leading the probe, made the announcement Tuesday that 39 more states had joined her investigative effort since she first announced it last month. The news came just after James had hosted a day-long summit at her Manhattan office with reps from 12 states as well as academics, former DoJ officials, and frequent critics of Facebook, as CNN reports.
In a press release today, James says, "Our investigation now has the support of 47 attorneys general from around the nation, who are all concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising." She adds, "As we continue our investigation, we will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions stifled competition and put users at risk."
The only states apparently not participating in the probe thus far, besides Facebook's home state of California, are Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Hawaii, and South Dakota, though James alludes to "a number of other states that cannot confirm their participation in pending investigations."
In other news, Mark Zuckerberg is either still in or headed back to D.C. following the weird speech he gave at Georgetown University last Thursday, getting ready to testify Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee about Facebook's cryptocurrency project, Libra. In prepared remarks that Facebook released Tuesday, Zuckerberg says that he's well aware that the company is "not the ideal messenger right now" for launching a cryptocurrency, and he's prepared to delay the launch of Libra past mid-2020 until all U.S. regulators' concerns are satisfied.
And in the positive-news column, Facebook announced today that it would follow Google's lead and pledge $1 billion to address California's housing crisis — $150 million of which would be earmarked for subsidized, supportive housing for the Bay Area's homeless.
As the New York Times reports, Facebook package of grants is expected to help in building 20,000 new housing units for middle- and lower-income households. Of those, 1,500 units of mixed-income housing are slated to be built on land worth $225 million that Facebook already owns in its HQ hometown of Menlo Park, which Facebook is committing to building itself.
Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in conjunction with Facebook's grant announcement, saying, "State government cannot solve housing affordability alone, we need others to join Facebook in stepping up — progress requires partnership with the private sector and philanthropy to change the status quo and address the cost crisis our state is facing."
In a company statement, Facebook CFO David Wehner said, "In San Francisco, a family of four making over $100,000 per year is considered low-income. The issue of affordable housing affects people across middle-class and low-income families alike."
Facebook previously pledged $500 million to the Partnership for the Bay's Future, which "aims to protect, produce and preserve 175,000 homes for all in the Bay Area."