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Google, Facebook hit with federal antitrust suit by West Virginia newspaper publisher

This story of Paul Farrell, Jr.’s federal antitrust case was originally published in the Washington Times.

Google and Facebook are facing a federal antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of a West Virginia newspaper publisher who alleges the companies have illegally monopolized the digital advertising market.

Lawyers for HD Media, which owns and operates several newspapers in the state, filed the suit Friday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. They requested a jury trial.

Rife with references to the findings reached last fall by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, the civil action brought against Google and Facebook accuses each of the internet giants of directly contributing to the decline of local journalism by allegedly monopolizing the digital ad market in violation of the U.S. Sherman Act.

“Since 2006, the news industry has been in economic freefall, primarily due to a massive decrease in advertising revenue caused by Defendants’ anticompetitive and unlawful conduct,” lawyers for HD Media wrote in the 42-page complaint they filed in federal court.

The complaint alleges Google monopolized the digital ad market during the last decade and a half, “to such extent that it threatens the extinction of local newspapers across the country.” It also accuses the company of unlawfully conspiring with Facebook to “further their worldwide dominance” of the market, citing an alleged pact between the two, called “Jedi Blue,” revealed in a lawsuit filed late last year by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“There is no longer a competitive market in which newspapers can fairly compete for online advertising revenue,” HD Media‘s lawyers alleged in the lawsuit.

“The freedom of the press is not at stake; the press itself is at stake,” lawyers Paul T. Farrell Jr., Paul J. Geller and Clayton J. Fitzsimmons wrote for HD Media.