In House Judiciary Hearing, Google Comically Blames Craigslist for Decline of Journalism

WASHINGTON, DC — Big tech companies are finally facing serious scrutiny from Congress. In the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing regarding Online Platforms and Market Power, representatives from four of the biggest tech companies Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon were peppered with questions from lawmakers about their monopolization of the digital marketplace and efforts to stifle their competitors. This was the second hearing in the Committee’s antitrust investigation into the tech giants, and these companies again were under fire for their role in the decline of the journalism industry.

Adam Cohen, a representative from Google, tried to assign blame elsewhere for the broken economic model of the journalism industry. 

Cohen testified, “There are different ways of reaching customers in different settings and the newspaper business model of journalism has come under pressure even before the internet…Newspapers used to make a lot of money from classified advertising and a lot of that has shifted to services like Craigslist.”

News publishers face many challenges and threats to their sustainability, but to claim in 2019 that Craigslist is more to blame than Google’s domination of the digital ad market is simply not credible. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, classified advertising revenue actually increased in the first decade-plus of Craigslist’s existence, rising to $14.2 billion in 2007 from $12.5 billion in 1994, the year before Craigslist debuted. Classified ad revenue is definitely now down from that level, but the CJR said blaming Craigslist is a straw man.

John Stanton, former DC bureau chief for Buzzfeed who was laid off in January, went on to describe this implication: 

To put the onus on Craigslist as the defining actor in journalism’s suffering is an outright joke. Craigslist hasn’t been a major factor in the health of the news business in decades, since classified ads were still shiny and new on the internet.

It’s lazy logic for anyone at Google to think all their problems with journalists and publishers will be solved just by flipping the responsibility onto an outdated website. Google and their big tech friends in Silicon Valley are forcing thousands out of their jobs and all you can do is point fingers at Craigslist? Instead of pointing fingers at others  every time something goes wrong, it’s time for the Digital Robber Barons to take responsibility for their actions.