The parent company of the Daily Mail and Mail Online is suing Google for alleged anti-competitive behavior by manipulating search results and ad auctions that cause harm to online publishers.
The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in Manhattan, alleges that Google built a dominant position in the digital advertising market and is using that market power to eliminate competition. It states that the technology behemoth now controls the tools used by publishers and advertisers to buy and sell online ad space.
“Google represents that its publisher ad server, as a tool for publishers, maximizes the yield for publishers’ inventory. But Google operates under a conflict of interest,” the lawsuit states (pdf).
“With its control over publisher ad serving, Google controls how publishers solicit and evaluate real-time bids for their inventory. Meanwhile, by operating the dominant exchange and dominant buy-side software, Google is the most powerful buyer of that inventory.
“The mechanics of Google’s conduct have evolved over time, but the result has remained the same: Google manipulates the process of real-time bidding to exclude rival exchanges, underpay for publisher inventory, and ultimately reduce the quality and quantity of online news.”
Among the tactics Google uses is to manipulate search rankings to “punish” publishers that “do not submit to its practices,” the lawsuit claims.
A spokesperson for the Daily Mail told The Wall Street Journal in a statement that the paper’s concerns stem from its assessment that coverage of the British royal family in 2021 had been downplayed in Google search results.
Google disputes the allegations in the lawsuit, saying that the Daily Mail’s claims are “are completely inaccurate.”
“The use of our ad tech tools has no bearing on how a publisher’s website ranks in Google Search. More generally, we compete in a crowded and competitive ad tech space where publishers have and exercise multiple options. The Daily Mail itself authorizes dozens of ad tech companies to sell and manage their ad space, including Amazon, Verizon, and more. We will defend ourselves against these meritless claims,” Google said in a statement to The Epoch Times.
This is the latest in a series of suits filed against Google that allege anti-competitive behavior. In January, a West Virginia media company that operates several newspapers filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to determine whether Google and Facebook had violated antitrust laws. The lawsuit claims that Google has unlawfully exercised monopoly power of the digital advertising market, preventing newspapers from competing in the market and causing them to lose their primary source of revenue.
Meanwhile, Google is also facing pushback from governments around the world that are concerned over the power these companies yield over public discourse and business competition. Australia is the latest country to pass legislation making Google and Facebook pay for news content. The law backs public-interest journalism and aims to provide a level playing field between these platforms and media companies, which have been losing advertising revenue to these platforms. Other countries have signaled an intention to follow in the footsteps of Australia.
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has introduced a similar law, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which provides a four-year safe harbor from antitrust laws to allow small news publishers to negotiate collectively with large tech companies such as Google and Facebook over the distribution of their content.
The Daily Mail is asking the court to declare that Google’s actions violated antitrust laws, to grant injunctive relief to restore competition, and for damages.