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Daily Mail owner files antitrust suit against Google over digital ad market power

Daily Mail owner files antitrust suit against Google over digital ad market power
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The parent company of the Daily Mail is suing Google over allegations that the Silicon Valley giant has illegally maintained a monopoly in the digital ad space that has hurt the newspaper’s ad-supported business model, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. 

The newspaper hit Google over its market power in the digital ad space, and accused the search giant of using its power to “punish publishers that do not submit to its practices.” 

“Google controls the ‘shelf space’ on publishers’ pages where ads appear, and it exploits that control to defeat competition for that ad space. Among other tactics, Google makes it difficult for publishers to compare prices among exchanges; reduces the number of exchanges that can submit bids; and uses bids offered by rival exchanges to set its own bids — a de facto bid rigging scheme,” the complaint stated. 

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A spokesperson for the publisher told The Wall Street Journal that the paper’s concerns with Google stem in part from its assessment that coverage of the royal family in 2021 has been downplayed in Google’s search results. 

The spokesperson told the Journal that Daily Mail executives have been disappointed that the newspaper’s digital coverage of the royal family has not shown up prominently in search results for keywords, including “Meghan and Harry,” “Piers Morgan” and “Prince Philip.” 

Moreover, the publisher said Google’s plans not to replace its tracking features once it phases out third-party cookies are a way for the company to further “monopolize the exchange market.” 

Google announced it would not replace the tracking feature in March, touting it as a way to protect users' privacy. But similarly to the Daily Mail’s allegations in the complaint, pro-privacy advocates have argued that the update may hurt Google’s rivals more than itself.  

The complaint seeks unspecified compensation and injunctive relief to restore competition and add safeguards for news content. 

A Google spokesperson said the Daily Mail’s claims "are completely inaccurate."

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"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," the spokesperson added in a statement.

The Daily Mail’s lawsuit is the latest in a line of legal challenges Google is facing over its market power. Google has defended itself against the other accusations of anti-competitive practices, as well. 

The Department of Justice is suing the company over its search policies, and state-led coalitions have filed two separate lawsuits against the company.

A lawsuit led by Texas specifically focuses on allegations that Google stifled competition in the advertising technology market. 

Google is also facing increased regulation that could force the company to change how it operates in the digital ad market. 

In Australia, a law passed earlier this year that will require tech giants, such as Google and Facebook, to pay publishers for news content it distributes. 

In the U.S., the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which wouldn’t go as far as the Australian approach but would allow news organizations to bargain with the tech platforms over the distribution of their content, was reintroduced last month. The bill has bipartisan support. 

--Updated at 11:41 a.m.