Over 80 Spanish media groups are suing Meta for $600 million, claiming unfair competition. This case could potentially set a precedent for similar actions in the European Union.
The legal action marks the most recent effort by established media companies to combat the control of large technology companies, as the traditional media sector continues to face financial struggles.
Suffering financial losses to Silicon Valley businesses results in decreased funds for investing in investigative reporting or limited means for combatting misinformation.
This situation is the most recent instance of media outlets worldwide requesting payment from internet and social media platforms for utilizing their content.
According to Reuters, the AMI, a group of Spanish media corporations, filed a lawsuit stating that Meta potentially breached EU data privacy regulations from 2018 to 2023.
The media outlets claim that Meta’s excessive and deliberate utilization of its Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp platform gives it an unjust edge in creating and providing customized advertisements, leading to unfair competition.
Irene Lanzaco, the head of AMI, informed VOA that they have calculated Meta’s actions to result in a loss of $539.2 million for Spanish newspapers and magazines from 2018 to 2023.
She stated that the decrease in earnings has made it challenging for the media to carry out their journalistic duties, compensate their journalists, conduct thorough investigations, and hold corrupt politicians accountable.
This suggests that as a society becomes increasingly divided, individuals may become less engaged with their communities if they are not aware of current events and information.
Experts claim that this is a unique approach taken by traditional media companies in their battle against tech giants, with the intention of appealing to those not involved in the news industry.
Previously, the focus of traditional media’s legal actions against Silicon Valley was on the stealing of intellectual property from the news industry. However, a Spanish lawsuit has brought attention to an alleged theft of personal data.
In the past, the legal cases brought by traditional media have focused on the unauthorized use of intellectual property. Kathy Kiely, who holds the Lee Hills chair in Free Press Studies at the Missouri School of Journalism, stated to VOA that “We have reported the news, and these individuals are sharing it on their websites without proper compensation.”
The focus of this case is on the fact that social media platforms have an abundance of audience information, allowing them to unfairly utilize it in advertising.
According to Reuters, the court documents were viewed by the commercial court in Madrid where the lawsuit was filed.
According to Matt Pollard, a representative for Meta Platforms, they have not yet been served with the legal documents regarding this case, so they are unable to provide a comment. The only information they have at this time is what has been reported by the media.
The plaintiffs consist of Prisa, the publisher of El País, a progressive newspaper in Spain; Vocento, the owner of ABC, a conservative daily; and La Vanguardia, a right-leaning daily based in Barcelona.
According to reports, Meta allegedly gathered personal information without obtaining explicit consent from its clients, which goes against the EU General Data Protection Regulation implemented in May 2018. This regulation requires all websites to obtain permission before collecting and utilizing personal data.
“According to Nicolas González Cuellar, an attorney representing AMI, the same legal process could be pursued in any other EU nation due to the alleged breach of European regulations.”
Kiely stated that the Spanish case has the potential to involve a larger audience and decision-makers, both in Europe and internationally.
“This particular legal case presents a novel approach. It goes beyond the mere preservation of the local news outlet, but also delves into the realm of privacy,” she stated. “It involves individuals outside of the news industry in a manner that copyright infringement does not.”
Media companies continue to pursue legal action against tech giants in an ongoing effort to receive proper compensation for the use and distribution of their content.
The ongoing legal dispute coincides with the Reuters Institute’s 2023 Digital News Report, which revealed that news publishers have been greatly troubled by tech giants like Meta and Google over the past ten years.
According to the report, Google and Facebook (now known as Meta) were responsible for almost half of the online traffic to news websites at their peak. While their dominance as the “duopoly” still holds significant weight, the report reveals a slight decrease in their control as other providers enter the competition in many markets.
The statement stated that the emergence of digital audio and video has introduced new platforms, and that certain consumers are now using less harmful and more confidential messaging networks for communication.
The Spanish media achieved a win against Google News, a service owned by Alphabet. The government had previously shut down the service in 2014, but it reopened in 2022 under new legislation that permits media companies to directly negotiate fees with the tech giant.
In the previous month, Google and the government of Canada came to a resolution in their conflict regarding the Online News Act. This agreement entails Google’s ongoing use of Canadian news on their online platform, with the stipulation that the company makes yearly payments of around $100 million to news organizations.
According to recent reports from Radio Canada and CBC News, the Canadian government projected that Google should pay approximately $172 million in compensation this year, while Google’s own estimate was closer to $100 million.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, expressed that the agreement was “extremely encouraging.”
“After maintaining our stance for several months and showing our dedication to supporting local journalism and compensating independent journalists for their work, Google has finally acknowledged the need to adequately support journalists, particularly those in the local sector,” he stated.
Google stated that it will not be forced to use a mandatory negotiation process for its discussions with the media in Canada. Instead, it would rather work with a single media organization that can represent all media outlets, reducing the potential for arbitration risks.
Google had initially planned to restrict access to Canadian news on its platforms due to the legislation, but ultimately did not follow through with this threat.
On the other hand, Meta concluded discussions with the Canadian government in the previous summer and discontinued sharing Canadian news on Facebook and Instagram.
According to the 2023 report from the Reuters Institute, 29% of Canadians utilized Facebook as a source for news last month. Approximately 11% turned to Facebook Messenger, while 10% used Instagram for this purpose.