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Media Outlets Band Together, Give AG Barr A Roadmap Showing How Google Is Allegedly Crushing Journalism

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A group representing thousands of media outlets wants the Department of Justice to consider Google’s negative impact on journalism as the agency continues its antitrust investigation targeting the tech giant.

The News Media Alliance gave Attorney General William Barr a report Thursday highlighting how Google is allegedly using its dominant position online to hollow out the news industry. Google allegedly compensates publishers at lower rates than would exist in a more competitive marketplace, the group wrote in a letter to Barr that included the report.

DOJ’s antitrust investigation is ongoing. 

“The leading copyright cases concerning search engines and aggregators are over a decade old and the precedent they created no longer reflects the realities of the modern online ecosystem,” NMA general counsel Danielle Coffey said in a press release. “Despite the fact that the digital marketplace has changed and many of Google’s uses of news content may not be fair use under the current circumstances, there remains little bargaining power with Google.”

As a result, “news publishers must consent to these practically unlimited uses by Google without compensation,” Coffey said.

NMA identified four ways that Google allegedly treats publishers unfairly. Google allegedly pressures publishers to use the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard for creating mobile web pages, allowing Google to store and distribute news content to readers without developing a working relationship with the publisher, the report notes.

NMA said Google also uses its dominant position to prod publishers into permitting the Google News App to use their content, prohibiting outlets from linking to the audience. Google’s news app is one of the Silicon Valley giant’s popular news aggregators, allowing people to view the news without clicking into an actual news article.

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The company also uses the publishers’ AMP to power Google’s other news aggregator, Google Discover, the report notes. In addition, Google uses publishers’ content to provide users’ answers to questions for search queries on Google’s search results page, allowing users to bypass a publisher’s content altogether, according to the report.

Google denied NMA’s characterization, calling many of the allegations “factually incorrect” in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“These are not new arguments, and many are factually incorrect,” Google spokeswoman Julie McAlister told the DCNF in a statement, before noting that AMP’s creation was done in collaboration with publishers, allowing them to use Google’s services more effectively. “We’re working hard to support news publishers as they transition to digital distribution.”

McAlister did not specify what was incorrect about NMA’s complaints.

NMA’s report comes as the DOJ and a slew of attorneys general are reportedly wrapping up their antitrust probe.

Reports from The Wall Street Journal in May 2020 and CNBC on June 5 suggest the DOJ and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are well into the planning stages of litigation against Google, while the DOJ and state attorneys general are collaborating on the probe.

Google and Facebook account for roughly 90 percent of the growth in new advertising revenue, according to market research company eMarketer, and nearly half of the global digital ad market.

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