Sen. Blumenthal to Google: “You’re driving [newspapers] out of business.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee picked up where the House left off last month, with a bipartisan grilling of Google during a hearing in which the harm to the journalism industry featured prominently. Citing research showing Google is taking up to 70% of ad revenue from news outlets, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said to Google, “[y]ou’re depriving these news organizations of the revenue they need to keep going when the First Amendment is already under assault.” 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) zeroed in on how Google uses its multi-platform dominance with Search, its Chrome browser, and Android mobile operating system to harvest data on a newspaper’s readers, using the Hartford Courant as an example. Google is then able to use that data to go to advertisers who would buy space in the Courant and enable them to reach the Courant’s readers with ads at lower cost. Sen. Blumenthal told Google, “you’re driving [papers] out of business…engaging in conduct that cuts their payrolls so there are fewer employees at those papers nationwide.” 

David Dinielli, Senior Advisor of Omidyar Network, spotlighted Google’s misuse of the journalism industry by hammering into the advertisement model that news publishers have been forced into while Google reaps the benefits, noting that “if you are an advertiser or a publisher all roads lead to Google.” Dinielli also made a crucial point that without advertising revenue streaming through newsrooms there is less content creation. Less content creation ensures a lower quality of local news reporting — an asset that consumers need more than ever as the country faces crisis after crisis. 

The following is a statement from Laura Bassett, former Senior Politics Reporter for HuffPost who was laid off in January 2019, and co-founder of the Save Journalism Project:

A bipartisan group of Senators exposed Google’s abuse of its market power to harm the journalism industry in a critical Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday. While journalists are risking their lives to report on a global pandemic, wildfires, the fight for social justice and elections, Google is exploiting its multi-platform dominance to drive newspapers out of business. The time has come to use the antitrust laws to stop Google from using their monopoly power to harm the journalism industry before it’s too late.