The owner of The Charleston Gazette-Mail and other West Virginia news publications filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday against Google and Facebook, accusing the companies of profiting from “anticompetitive and monopolistic practices” that have damaged the newspaper business.
The publisher, HD Media, said the lawsuit was the first of its kind to be filed by a newspaper company. The suit is focused on the centrality of Google to the online advertising market, as well as an agreement between Google and Facebook that is the center of an antitrust lawsuit brought by 10 state attorneys general. It is estimated the two tech companies together accounted for more than half of all digital advertising spending in 2019.
“Google and Facebook have monopolized the digital advertising market, thereby strangling a primary source of revenue for newspapers across the country,” HD Media said in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia.
“There is no longer a competitive market in which newspapers can fairly compete for online advertising revenue,” the suit continued.
The rise of digital media has led to sharp drops in revenue for many newspaper companies, which once depended on print ads and print subscriptions to stay in business. More than one in four American newspapers shut down between 2004 and 2018, and tens of thousands of newsroom jobs have disappeared.
In addition to The Gazette-Mail, which in 2018 won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, papers owned by HD Media include The Herald-Dispatch and The Logan Banner.
“We invite every other newspaper in America to join this cause,” Doug Reynolds, the managing partner of HD Media, said in a statement on Friday. “We are fighting not only for the future of the press but also the preservation of our democracy.”
Tech companies have come under new scrutiny in recent months. In October, the Justice Department filed suit against Google, accusing the company of illegally protecting its monopoly over internet search and the digital advertising market. In two lawsuits filed in December, dozens of states accused Google of abusing its dominance of the online ad business and thwarting competitors in search.
Last month, the lyric-annotation company Genius Media and two left-wing magazines, The Nation and The Progressive, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google — as well as its parent company, Alphabet, and a sibling company, YouTube — citing what the suit called “anticompetitive conduct” in the digital ad market.
Google referred a request for comment to a statement the company issued this month in response to a separate complaint. In the statement, the company said its ad business “helps websites and apps make money and fund high-quality content.” Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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