More newspaper lawsuits against Google, Facebook. Will they work? – Newspapers and Technology

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Facebook and Google are facing a parade of lawsuits from newspaper companies, along with legislative and Department of Justice pressure.

Below see news-related suits and other action Google and Facebook face.

How do you see this shaking out? Are these actions going to make a major difference for the news industry?

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• Publishers of 125 newspapers in 11 states filed or announced suits against Google and Facebook on Monday, claiming the tech giants have unlawfully monopolized the digital advertising market and engaged in an illegal secretive deal, nicknamed “Jedi Blue,” to throttle competition.

Fourteen complaints were filed or announced by publishers from Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Mississippi, New Jersey, Indiana, Missouri, Maryland and Delaware, said a press release from West Virginia-based Fitzsimmons Law Firm (see complaints). 

Publishers filing suit on Monday: AIM Media, Brown County Publishing Company and Multi Media Channels Clarksburg Publishing Company, d.b.a. WV News; Coastal Point; Eagle Printing Company; Ecent Corporation; Emmerich Newspapers; Flag Publications; Gale Force Media and Journal Inc.

In addition, WKTimes and Pinnacle Communications have announced their intention to file similar suits.

The newspaper publishers are represented by a national coalition of attorneys: Paul Farrell Jr. and Mike Fuller of Farrell & Fuller; Paul Geller, Stuart Davidson, David Mitchell and Steve Jodlowski of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd; Clayton Fitzsimmons, Bob Fitzsimmons and Mark Colantonio of Fitzsimmons Law Firm; and John Herman and Serina Vash of Herman Jones.

• In January 2021 an antitrust suit against Google and Facebook was filed by HD Media, a West Virginia-based company that publishes the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Herald-Dispatch (Huntington).   

• Those actions follow government-led suits. In December, a bipartisan coalition of 38 states filed suit against Google, with a focus on Google’s search engine (see complaint). Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser and Nebraska’s Republican Attorney General Doug Peterson led that effort. That same month, ten states, in an effort led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, filed suit against Google (see complaintcommentary). The U.S. Department of Justice and eleven states filed an antitrust suit against Google in October (see press release, complaint). More states joined the suit later.

• Google and Facebook denied the “Jedi Blue” allegations in the government and HD Media suits, The Wall Street Journal reported.  

• Fox Business reported in December that four private companies also filed two suits against Google alleging monopolistic behavior: Sweepstakes Today with one suit and Genius Media Group, The Nation and The Progressive with another. 

• A bipartisan group of lawmakers in March reintroduced the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. The bill would “provide a limited antitrust safe harbor for news publishers to collectively negotiate with Facebook and Google for fair compensation for the use of their content,” says the News Media Alliance. House Antitrust Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI), Ranking Member Ken Buck (R-CO), Senate Antitrust Chairwoman Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator John N. Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the bill. 

• Much of this action follows the February passage of Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, which requires Facebook and Google to pay for links to news. There is action in Europe and in Canada, CNBC reports

• Meanwhile, Facebook and Google are throwing money at the news industry and the industry is accepting it. Facebook and Google both pledged to invest $1 billion each in the industry. In February, Facebook said it’s invested $600 million since 2018 to support the news industry and plans at least $1 billion more over the next three years.

In October 2020, Google announced “an initial $1 billion investment in partnerships with news publishers and the future of news.” Through its Google News Initiative, Google has already invested in a slate of projects. The company has launched its News Showcase in more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Argentina and Australia.


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