Google parent Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and social media giant Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) have pledged to help defend each other against an antitrust investigation into a deal between the two tech giants over online advertising, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The report said an unredacted lawsuit filed by 10 US states against Google last week showed that the two firms made a deal in 2018 under which Facebook would not compete with Google’s online advertising tools in return for special treatment when it used the tools itself.

READ: Google, Facebook, Apple and the rest of Big Tech face regulatory pressure on both sides of the Atlantic

The filing also reportedly says that the two companies knew the pact could draw scrutiny from antitrust regulators, and that they would team up in case such probes resulted in legal action.

The antitrust lawsuit, and now the exposure of the cooperation pact, could cause more headaches for Facebook, which is currently facing legal action from the Federal Trade Commission and a coalition of 48 US states who are alleging that the company has engaged in anticompetitive behaviour and abused its market position to crush potential rivals.

Shares in Alphabet were mostly flat at US$1,740 in pre-market trading in New York on Tuesday, while Facebook was also mostly unmoved at US$272.74.

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