Tenn. Newspaper Latest to File Against Google, Facebook for Anticompetitive Acts in Digital Ads

A lawsuit submitted on Tuesday in the Western District of Tennessee has accused Google and Facebook of siphoning off Weakley County Press Inc.’s primary stream of revenue derived from the digital advertising market. Like other proceedings against the tech titans, this week’s complaint takes aim at both Google’s alleged monopolistic stranglehold on the market and an illicit agreement the pair entered into to preserve their absolute dominance.

The lawsuit comes after Google moved to dismiss a complaint filed by state attorneys general over the same purported conduct. In its motion, Google argued that those plaintiffs’ assertions are untimely and fail to state a claim for relief. Too, the motion contends that Google has done nothing to warrant punishment under the nation’s antitrust laws and questions why the judiciary should be called upon to police it.

Briefing on that motion is scheduled to conclude in April.

In this week’s filing, Weakley County Press asserts that it and its predecessor have printed continuously for more than 135 years, serving a local population that otherwise does not have access to community news. “The freedom of the press is not at stake; the press itself is at stake,” the complaint warns, pointing to statistics revealing that newspaper advertising revenue has drastically declined in the last ten years.

The plaintiff fingers Google for those losses. Weakley County Press asserts that normally, it and other periodicals would compete for revenue from the digital advertising market. Yet, through vertical integration, acquisitions, and other anticompetitive conduct, Google has “absorbed the market internally and consumed most of the revenue.”

As to other anticompetitive conduct, the complaint points to an agreement codenamed “Jedi Blue,” currently under seal in the attorneys general’s case. The complaint states the plaintiff’s belief that this is direct evidence that Google and Facebook unlawfully entered into an agreement to unreasonably restrain trade.

Like other suits filed against the pair, Weakley County Press seeks injunctive relief halting the anticompetitive practices, treble damages, and award of its attorneys’ fees and costs. The newspaper is represented by Barrett Law Office PLLC, Taylor Martino P.C., Fitzsimmons Law Firm PLLC, Farrell & Fuller LLC, Herman Jones LLP, and Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP.