Newspapers across the US have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook over the past year, alleging that the two companies have monopolized the digital advertising market and appropriated revenue that would otherwise go to local newspapers.
What started as a small-town attempt to take a stand against big tech companies has turned into a nationwide movement with more than 200 subscriber newspapers participating across dozens of states.
“The intellectual framework for this move has evolved over the past three or four years,” said Doug Reynolds, managing partner of HD Media, a holding company that owns several West Virginia newspapers, including the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Reynolds, along with a group of lawyers, filed the first such lawsuit in newspapers in January in West Virginia.
As part of the first lawsuit, Reynolds worked with a coalition of lawyers who agreed to represent newspapers across the country looking to bring similar lawsuits.
The lawsuits are funded by emergency, which means that the lawyers involved are not paid unless the newspapers win the settlements.
According to Axios, the aim of the litigation is to “recover damages to newspapers in the past” caused by big tech companies, says Clayton Fitzsimmons, one of the lawyers representing the newspapers.
The other reason is to “create a new system going forward so that newspapers are not only competitive again, they can thrive,” he said, referring to laws such as Australia that force tech companies to pay publishers for their content.
The lawsuits were filed after the House Judiciary Committee published its flagship report on digital competition last October, which included a section on newspapers. Lawmakers are very interested in understanding how the dominance of Google and Facebook has affected the newspaper industry.
The Department of Justice, along with several state attorneys general, sued Google for violating antitrust laws.
Facebook is facing a similar antitrust lawsuit from state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission.
According to the report, all lawsuits were consolidated by a judicial panel over the summer in the Southern District of New York.