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More lawsuits on the way for Google

Looks like Google is in trouble again. How am I going to find out more about this? I think you know. Of course, I Googled it. What I found was that the Federal anti-trust suits in the U.S.A.

Looks like Google is in trouble again. How am I going to find out more about this? I think you know. Of course, I Googled it. What I found was that the Federal anti-trust suits in the U.S.A. in October were about to be joined by similar suits from several US states.

The Wall Street Journal says: “as many as four cases against Facebook and Alphabet’s Google alleging that their behavior harmed consumers could be filed in the coming weeks by federal and state regulators. The U.S.  Department of Justice sued Google last month alleging that the company used anticompetitive practices to maintain its dominant position in the Internet search and the related advertising market. Facebook is facing similar allegations regarding its role in social media.”

These events will have consequences that reach our own community newspaper. News Media Canada (NMC)is an association of Canadian newspapers that represent more than 90 per cent of news media readership in Canada. Early this month NMC sent an open letter to Canadian Members of Parliament in response to a letter sent by Google. Excerpts of the NMC letter follow here.

Levelling the Digital Playing Field

  • John Hinds President/CEO News Media Canada

There is no aspect of digital advertising that Google does not touch. This, coupled with their dominance as a search engine, where people routinely go to find news stories, makes them a clear monopoly. Google is the auction, the auctioneer, the product, the buyer and the seller.

Google claims that they did not cause “the disruption of the newspaper business model,” implying that what they dismissively refer to as “legacy media” has not kept up with changing technology. In fact, Canadian newspaper publishers, large and small, have been in the forefront of adapting to the digital world since the introduction of the Internet in the 1990s.

Google also neglects to acknowledge that it and its fellow Internet monopoly, Facebook, combined collect 80 per cent of online advertising revenues in Canada.

There is a way to sustain and foster a flourishing news media ecosystem in Canada once again, one that includes multicultural outlets, local newspapers in regional markets and in-depth coverage of the stories that matter to all Canadians.

We’re calling upon the Government of Canada to implement a series of measures based on the approach the Australian government has chosen to take in order to address these monopolistic practices effectively.

Under this Australian model:

• The government enables the country’s newspapers to band together as unit to negotiate compensation for the use of their content and intellectual property. It is only through this collective approach that the immense monopoly power of the web giants can be countered, and the digital playing field levelled.

• A long-term code-of-conduct is put in place to ensure that the web monopolies do not try to use new algorithms and other proprietary technology to expand their market domination and entrench anti-competitive practices.

• The enforcement has real teeth as the web giants are subject to fines in the hundreds of millions of dollars for a single infraction. Penalties of this scale are the only effective ways to rein in companies of this unprecedented size and power.

• No new government funding or consumer taxes or user fees are required for this solution.

We agree with one sentence in the Google letter: “No, the news business is not the same as it was two decades ago. Innovative Canadians are making it better.” These are the women and men in newsrooms across Canada. Real journalists, reporting real news and using new, innovative ways of reaching Canadians. We will continue to fight for them and their communities, even in the face of powerful multinationals who produce no journalism and seek to strip the profits from the work of others.