News Publishers Ask For Monopoly Powers To Fight Back Against Google/Facebook Monopoly

from the if-you-can't-beat-them,-join-them-in-antitrust-violations dept

Cool. Cool. More two wrongs make a right legislation is being routed through the federal government. The first wrong? Facebook and Google have “too much” power, apparently, and they’re strangling the life out of news agencies. Allegedly. This would seem to raise antitrust issues, if they’re actually big enough to throttle newspapers and other publishers into submission. That’s a big if, but why wait until the facts are in to decide? How do you fight a supposed monopoly? By allowing more monopoly, apparently.

Representative David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) plans to introduce a bill that would exempt publishers from antitrust enforcement so they can negotiate collectively over terms for distributing their content. Cicilline says the bill is designed to level the playing field between publishers and the tech giants, not dictate the outcome. Without an exemption, collective action by publishers could run afoul of antitrust laws around colluding over price or refusal to deal with competitors.

Oddly enough, several media companies are onboard with this hot monopoly-on-monopoly action. The News Media Alliance — representing 2,000 newspapers across the US and Canada — thinks it doesn’t have enough leverage to negotiate with social media companies. So, it wants to be allowed to break the law to make things more fair. It seems that if the problem is a social media/search engine monopoly, then legislators might want to have a word with the monopolists before allowing another set of media companies to collude to make the internet a shitty place to find news.

To make this plea for government-blessed collusion, the head of the NMA, David Chavern, has decided to belittle the internet and the people who use it.

[C]havern believes the news business warrants intervention because of its role in a healthy democracy. “The republic is not going to suffer terribly if we have bad cat video or even bad movies or bad TV. The republic will suffer if we have bad journalism,” he says, pointing to data from Pew that shows newspaper advertising fell by $4 billion from 2014 to 2016, even though web traffic for the top U.S. newspapers grew 42 percent during the same time period.

This is some prime elitist claptrap. The internet can be used for more than one thing. People who watch cat videos also read local reporting. People who enjoy bad TV also enjoy in-depth journalism. None of this is mutually exclusive and none of this has anything to do with Google or Facebook or media companies seeking permission to get the band back together and engage in monopolistic behavior. If you’re so dead set on “saving the republic,” why is your first move to punch holes in antitrust laws? Are you that obtuse? Do you think that hole won’t be made wider by competitors for consumers’ attention, resulting in even less traffic and ad revenue for news publishers?

While I understand the desire to “level” the playing field, the mechanism is completely wrong. Many, many publishers have complained about Facebook and Google destroying them but none have ever put their remaining money where their mouth is and walked away from whatever these tech companies have offered. Maybe they feel a bad deal is better than no deal at all. Or maybe they actually recognize these companies drive traffic to their sites — traffic they wouldn’t have otherwise.

At the bottom of this is a demand for money. Publishers want Google and Facebook to pay (more) for sending them traffic. Since they can’t produce enough leverage to sell this worthless bill of goods, they want the government to give them a pass on antitrust charges until they get the payout they want. This won’t work out the way they want it to and it will create a hole in antitrust laws others will exploit, all in the name of “fairness.”

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Companies: facebook, google, news media alliance

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Comments on “News Publishers Ask For Monopoly Powers To Fight Back Against Google/Facebook Monopoly”

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Ninja (profile) says:

I come to techdirt daily without touching Google, Facebook or whatever and I give them money even though the site is completely free (and doesn’t whine if you block ads in the process of using it for free). What are all these news outfits doing to secure a loyal readership? If you only rely on a 3rd party for most of your revenue you can’t really complain. Specially because Google and Facebook are far from the only option and Facebook is actually losing ground as far as I can grasp.

Anonymous Coward says:

“This is some prime elitist claptrap.”

Standard Operating Procedure filled with the SSDD crapfest.
These grifters are nearing the end of their road, not sure if it’s a washed out bridge, a cliff or maybe a roadblock. Time will tell as their money grubbing will eventually cause their demise. When everyone has died from starvation, illness or war – who will mow their estate lawns – who will clean their toilets? And … who will pay taxes? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When everyone has died from starvation, illness or war – who will mow their estate lawns – who will clean their toilets? And … who will pay taxes? Inquiring minds want to know.

I’ve always thought it would be fun to take the worlds top 0.01%’ers and abandon them on a rock somewhere. While leaving a surveillance satellite so we can watch what happens. It’d be fun to see them turn on and start enslaving each other. Then, once the dust settles, we use the satellite to drop a nuke from orbit.

ECA (profile) says:

didnt this just happen?? in the EU?

This has already happened..

HOW is it that they are going to FORCE some type of competition?
Go ahead and CHARGE the paperboy, for delivering your PAPERS..

How does this work?
All the papers print things, including National news, which can cover Every paper we have in this country..
Why read, 20 papers, that are all saying the same thing..Search and find 2000 articles on the same thing?
Aggregator does the Same thing, then Thins out the EXACT same copies. And Hopefully, gets the #1 copy from the original Publisher.
Google doesnt Publish Much, they just gather all the newspapers and let you see them..

So, as the papernboy, WHY arnt They paying Google? At least for those that Click Thru to THAT papers site..

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

WOW, really?

Google simply sends people TO those sites, or pulls the data from that site..
That Site uses Google adverts..and gets paid for them..

The 1 thing google does is Gather the News, but when AP has a big story, its sent/published by ALL the papers..Who do you want to read it from?
IF’ you want it local, GO READ LOCAL..National, Pick which one you like..

the only Independent news is LOCAL, and not shared across the nation..10,000+ papers carry the national news.. And LOCAL news is 2-4 pages..and not worth the money to print, unless you LOVE ADVERTS

Anonymous Coward says:

Allow specific oligopoly is not same as de facto GOOGLE monopoly

This is standard Techdirt fare that Google / Facebook aren’t anywhere near monopolies so why is gov’t being mean to them?

Whether YOU define them as monopolies or not, they’re certainly large enough to have long since triggered traditional anti-trust — and should have by now, except that for sure Google is effectively protected by allowing NSA “direct access” as Snowden said, so it’s outright fascism, and SHIELDED from anti-trust.

Of course, Techdirt favors not all corporations being equal, but the special CDA 230 provision that exempt “internet” corporations from the laws that apply to paper publishers. Let’s remove those special protections, first, and then take Google / Facebook apart, simply too large. After all, if IBM and ATT hadn’t been cut down with anti-trust, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, and dozens of others simply wouldn’t exist. You came into the whole monopoly struggle late, and now you think nothing could ever possibly go wrong by allowing globalist mega-corps to contine growing.

Anonymous Coward says:


Of the two (G&F) I use one multiple times daily, and don’t use the other at all. Both of them have alternatives; if I had the intestinal fortitude or a love for spam, I could go to Bing instead of Google; Eurotwits can start their own search engine any day if they so desire. Facebook does several different things, but there are other large sites that do each of them. There is no economic cost to a user of switching from google to some other search; there might be significant inconvenience switching all your personal info (email, photos, etc.) to a different site, but there’s no economic cost, and of course new users can start anywhere.

Even advertisers (may they all die horribly!) cannot say Google is a monopoly; they can exploit google at the same time as any other ad servers, they can still directly support specific website–there are numerous options, and an advertiser is just as free to mix/match google features as a search engine user.

Local newspapers–now THERE’S a monopoly. You want Podunk County news, the chances there are two local papers in P. County is vanishingly small, unless P. County happens to include one of the five largest cities in the country.

Internet Service Providers–now THERE’S the poster child for an evil monopoly, with all the worst features of monopolistic behavior–price gouging, worst-in-the-world customer service, massive lobbying and politician-buying to keep pesky startups from competing.

In a world containing either of those, Google isn’t even worth mentioning EXCEPT as a splendid example of the kind of added-value that only happens in a highly-competitive market.

Anonymous Coward says:

No "good guys" here

It is always tempting to try to see this as a battle between good guys and bad guys, but there are no good guys in this battle.

The news media: as they transition from news organizations to “modern businesses” (I.e. cut staff, asset strip, underinvest in business development, take as much money as possible out of the business in dividends to shareholders), they left themselves exposed with nowhere to go as the internet came and disrupted their businesses.

Google et al: because of the concentration of advertisers in a small number of players’ hands, coupled with “secret algorithms”, they do have a position of dominance that is unhealthy and monopolistic. (As anyone who has ever been faced with something like Google’s processes will attest: “we’ve suspended your account because our algorithms detected prohibited activity. You may appeal if you disagree.” “I disagree, so I wish to appeal” “How do you explain the prohibited activity?” “What was the prohibited activity I’m accused of?” “To protect our algorithms, we can’t tell you” “So how can I defend myself?” “We’ve reviewed your case. You’re wrong. There will be no further appeal. Your account is suspended (and we’re keeping the money you’ve earned)”). Indeed the problem of concentration in the online advertising space is one Mike Masnick has written about a few times over the years as techdirt tries new advertising methods.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: No "good guys" here

Good guy / bad guy is a myth developed in hollywood in order to support the entrenchment of our two party system. Not unlike the good cop / bad cop … they are both dirt bags and good liars, cracking jokes as they make fun of the perp.

The really bad, bad guys … were responsible for the world economic crisis, remember that? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

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