Digital Equity - Litigation

HD Media files first of its kind antitrust lawsuit against Google and Facebook

A West Virginia newspaper company filed a federal antitrust lawsuit today against Google and Facebook charging the internet giants with monopolizing the digital advertising market. This is believed to be the first lawsuit of its kind filed by a newspaper company against the tech giants for their monopolistic practices.

Owner of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail, The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch and a half-dozen weekly newspapers, HD Media LLC filed a 42-page complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. HD Media claims Google has monopolized the digital advertising market to such an extent that Google has been enabled to extract a supracompetitive share of HD Media’s advertising revenues, harming the company’s ability to effectively monetize its content. The complaint also alleges that Google and Facebook violated antitrust laws by conspiring to further their worldwide dominance of the digital advertising market, entering into a secret agreement codenamed “Jedi Blue” to manipulate online auctions.

New class action lawsuit claims Google virtually controls every part of digital advertising chain

In addition to the three antitrust lawsuits brought against Google by the Justice Department and state attorneys general, several private publishers also filed suits against Google in December over its advertising and search practices.

John Bussian, a First Amendment lawyer who also handles predatory pricing problems for the newspaper industry, says these latest suits hold special relevance to publishers of America's Newspapers members.  Bussian also serves as a member of the America's Newspapers Legal Affairs and Lobbying Committee.

"Two of the new suits  filed by private publishers, seeking damages over and above the relief sought by the U.S. Department of Justice and the attorneys general in several states, bear close watching," Bussian said.  "One in particular claims Google virtually controls every part of the digital advertising chain, and that publisher is ready to prove how that makes it impossible to compete."
Sweepstakes Today is one of the companies that is a party to one of those new class action lawsuits.  Through its lawsuit, Sweepstakes Today said it is seeking to "remedy harm to digital publishers that make available and sell space on their website (or applications) to advertisers."

The suit says: "That harm is the direct result of Google’s efforts to expand its occupation and control of the online advertising market to the detriment of publishers, with which it competes to sell ad space. While it is most often thought of as a search engine, through aggressive expansion Google now owns at least 75 different consumer-facing products, many of which are used to serve digital ads. It is, by all accounts, a significant competitor for the sale of digital ad space. One product alone (YouTube) accounts for 20% of all display advertisements sold through the digital ad tech stack."


Justice Department suit against Google is a start, but industry leaders say legislation is the key

The need for government intervention to address the issues faced by newspapers and other companies as a result of Google's monopoly over search and search advertising is highlighted in a suit filed against Google by the U.S. Justice Department. But, legislative action is needed to address the newspaper industry's real concerns.