Nadler: Journalism industry 'gravely threatened' by Google, Facebook

Nadler: Journalism industry 'gravely threatened' by Google, Facebook
© Greg Nash

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday said that the American journalism industry was "gravely threatened" by the growing dominance of Facebook and Google, claiming that the tech giants' power was presenting a "dangerous situation" for the future of news.

"Reporters have been fired, local newspapers have been shut down and now we hear that Google and Facebook are making money off what news they let the American people see. This is a very dangerous situation," Nadler said while speaking during a House antitrust subcommittee hearing addressing the size and power of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

Critics say that the tech giants' dominance in the digital ad market has helped cause an emerging crisis for local news outlets, as they siphon away a critical revenue source for the industry. 

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Nadler pointed to the state of the business while questioning Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFemale lawmakers pressure Facebook to crack down on disinformation targeting women leaders Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns 20 state AGs call on Facebook to take greater steps to combat hate speech, online harassment MORE and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, noting that more than 200 counties no longer have a local newspaper and that tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs in recent years. 

"The reason journalism is in free fall is that Google and Facebook now capture the vast majority of digital ad revenue," Nadler said, claiming that Google and Facebook were now "profiting off" news outlets' content. There have, however, been counterclaims about how much Google and Facebook profit off the news.

Nadler said that publishers alleged to the subcommittee amid their investigation that Google and Facebook maintain their power through anti-competitive practices and conflicts of interest. He also questioned Zuckerberg about Facebook's announcement in 2015 that video viewership was growing on the platform. The data prompted several news outlets to direct investments toward video, though reports later surfaced that Facebook had inflated the metrics

Zuckerberg said that he did not know about that the data was inflated at the time of the release, noting "we have put in place a number of other measures" since then. 

"What do you have to say to the journalists who lost their jobs because of Facebook’s deception?" Nadler asked, referencing how the investments in video due to those metrics harmed certain publishers.

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"Congressman I disagree with that characterization," Zuckerberg responded, prompting Nadler to cut him off and ask Pichai questions about Google's search results and whether the ability to make profits affects its decisions on algorithms. 

"We do not take into account commercial interests," Pichai said. 

Facebook and Google faced consistent scrutiny over their emerging size, as well as their dominance in areas such as digital advertising. In the face of criticism, the companies have poured hundreds of millions of dollars to support the news industry in recent years.