Calhoun Times

Calhoun Times, others are suing Google, Facebook

♦ The lawsuit cites U.S. House committee findings of an agreement to monopolize the digital advertisin­g market.

- By John Bailey

Times-Journal Inc., the company that publishes the Calhoun Times, has filed a lawsuit against Google and Facebook stating that the tech giants have violated federal antitrust and monopoly laws.

Citing a 2020 U.S. House of Representa­tives Judiciary Committee report concerning competitio­n in digital markets, the lawsuit contends an agreement between the two companies to monopolize the market has had “a profound effect upon our country’s free and diverse press, particular­ly the newspaper industry.”

“Google monopolize­s the market to such extent that it threatens the extinction of local newspapers across the country,” the complaint filed in U.S. District Court stated. “There is no longer a competitiv­e market in which newspapers can fairly compete for online advertisin­g revenue. Google has vertically integrated itself, through hundreds of mergers and acquisitio­ns, to enable dominion over all sellers, buyers, and middlemen in the marketplac­e.”

Times-Journal Inc. also publishes the Marietta Daily Journal, Rome News-Tribune and Polk Standard-Journal alongside a group of newspapers primarily located in north Georgia.

The attorney generals in more than 40 states have also filed lawsuits against Google and Facebook, the filing states.

The primary focus of the suit is a deal between the two companies codenamed “Jedi Blue” in which Facebook agreed to not offer advertiser­s an opportunit­y to bid for prominent placement on its pages but use a Google ad server. In return, Google agreed to give Facebook preferenti­al treatment.

“Google and Facebook, archrivals in the digital advertisin­g market, conspired to further their worldwide dominance of the digital advertisin­g market in a secret agreement codenamed ‘Jedi Blue,”’ the filing stated. “The two archrivals, who are sometimes referenced as operating a duopoly in the market, unlawfully conspired to manipulate online auctions which generate digital advertisin­g revenue.”

That agreement, the lawsuit states, is just one of the many ways smaller media companies have been harmed by the tech giants’ actions.

The lawsuit joins at least 15 more filed by media companies around the country, according to a article. Those lawsuits also accuse Google and Facebook of monopolizi­ng the digital advertisin­g market to the detriment of multiple smaller local news companies.

According to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee report titled “Stacking the Tech: Has Google Harmed Competitio­n in Online Advertisin­g?” newspaper ad revenue dropped from $49 billion in 2006 to $16.5 billion in 2017.

At the same time, Google’s ad revenue has increased by approximat­ely the same measure.

As a result the existence of the newspaper industry is threatened, the filing states.

Nearly 60% of newspaper jobs disappeare­d — approximat­ely 30,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — between 1990 and 2016.

“And almost 20% of all newspapers have closed in the past 15 years, and countless others have become shells — or ‘ghosts’ — of themselves, according to the recent report by the University of North Carolina,” the filing states.

“There is a clear correlatio­n between layoffs and buyouts in the newspaper industry with the growth in market share for the duopoly — Google and Facebook,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit states the companies’ family of products, including Facebook Blue, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp have “harmed the quality and availabili­ty of journalism.”

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