Over the past year, 17 newspaper groups have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook on behalf of more than 150 newspapers, charging that the platforms have engaged in illegal competition with local media by monopolizing digital advertising.
Together, the lawsuits add up to a national effort to take on the big platforms, at a time when Google and Facebook are already under unprecedented legal challenges from regulators in the U.S. and other countries, reports Axios.
More lawsuits are in the works. In total, more than 30 newspaper groups owning more than 200 publications have retained the same group of attorneys — specialists in antitrust litigation who are working on contingency.
The lawsuits seek to recover past damages — which could be three times any actual damages established — and establish a new system that will ensure that newspapers can compete and thrive going forward, such as Australia’s law requiring platforms to pay publishers for their content, lawyers involved in the litigation told Axios.
HD Media, which owns the Charleston Gazette-Mail and several other newspapers in West Virginia, filed the first newspaper antitrust lawsuit, in that state, in January 2021.
That followed key developments in 2020, including the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s report on digital competition, released in June; an antitrust lawsuit filed against Google by the Justice Department and a group of state attorneys general in September 2020; and an antitrust lawsuit filed against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission in December 2020.
This summer, the newspaper lawsuits were consolidated in the Southern District of New York, where Associated Newspapers had earlier filed a similar suit against Google.
The court’s options include selecting some of the cases as test cases, or sending some back to the states in which they were filed.
Google responded to the report with a statement: “These claims are just wrong. The online advertising space is crowded and competitive, our ad tech fees are lower than reported industry averages, and publishers keep the vast majority of revenue earned when using our products. We are one of the world's leading financial supporters of journalism and have provided billions of dollars to support quality journalism in the digital age."
Facebook declined to comment.