Rupert Murdoch has accused tech giants Google and Facebook of silencing conservative voices on their platforms and has called for “significant reform” and transparency around digital advertising supply chains.
“What we have seen in the past few weeks about the practices at Facebook and Google surely reinforces the need for significant reform,” the News Corp executive chairman told an annual shareholder meeting on Nov. 17.
“There is no doubt that Facebook employees try to silence conservative voices and a quick Google News search on most contemporary topics often reveals a similar pattern of selectivity—or to be blunt, censorship.”
Facebook has previously denied it silences conservative voices, with Mark Zuckerberg in 2016 declaring in a post on his social media platform that he took the report it was censoring news on its trending topics very seriously.
“We take this report very seriously and are conducting a full investigation to ensure our teams upheld the integrity of this product,” he said. “We have found no evidence that this report is true. If we find anything against our principles, you have my commitment that we will take additional steps to address it.”
Google has also denied its silences conservative voices in 2018.
Murdoch also highlighted his concern over a recent complaint by the Texas Attorney General that the two companies collude.
“The collusion between the two companies on ad tech as alleged in the Texas Attorney General’s complaint is extraordinary.”
In December 2020, Ken Paxton’s office, along with 47 other attorney-generals and the Federal Trade Commission, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook.
“The states’ investigation revealed that Facebook protected its monopoly by identifying competitive threats and either absorbing them through acquisition or neutralising them through exclusionary conduct,” Paxton said in a press release.
“The law enforcement action filed today exposes its illegal conduct and should ultimately restore competition in social networking for the benefit of millions of users in Texas and the United States as well as businesses that advertise on Facebook.”
Murdoch said the digital ad market—dominated by Google and Facebook—was subject to manipulation and that companies and consumers were being overcharged for its services.
“The idea falsely promoted by the platforms that algorithms are somehow objective and solely scientific is complete nonsense,” he said. “Algorithms are subjective, and they can be manipulated by people to kill competition and damage other people, publishers and businesses.”
In Australia, where News Corp has a significant presence, Google is currently facing a five-year inquiry from the nation’s competition watchdog over its market dominance.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is simultaneously probing Google’s activities in the App store space, its control of the digital advertising supply chain, and even whether consumers should have the choice to select non-Google-related search engines when they turn on their phone or PC.
The ACCC estimated that Google controlled 50 to 100 percent of different segments of the digital ad supply chain, which underpins the country’s AU$3.4 billion digital advertising (excluding classifieds and search) market.
“But there is a real lack of competition, choice and transparency in this industry. These issues add to the cost of advertising for businesses, which will ultimately impact the prices paid by consumers,” Sims said in a statement.
“Google’s significant presence across the whole ad tech supply chain, combined with its significant data advantage, means Google is likely to have the ability and the incentive to preference its own ad tech businesses in ways that affect competition,” he added.
Meanwhile, Murdoch also commented on the current political scene in the United States saying that it was time for everyone, including U.S. President Donald Trump to focus on the future.
“The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” Murdoch said.
“It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate,” he said. “The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future.”