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News/Media Alliance Calls on FTC, DOJ to Investigate Google

This week, the News/Media Alliance, a US trade body, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), urging the agencies to investigate Google.

News/Media Alliance Calls on FTC, DOJ to Investigate Google
Danielle Coffey: “Disintermediating publishers and readers and preventing publishers from monetizing their content will inevitably lead to the further decline of our news ecosystem.”

Specifically, the letter calls on the FTC and DOJ to investigate what it describes as Google’s “monopolistic taking of digital news publishing” and stop its latest expansion through its use of generative artificial intelligence (AI) within its ubiquitous search product “before the effects become irreversible”.

Focusing on Google’s new AI Overviews offering, the letter notes that Google is misappropriating newspaper, magazine and digital media publishers’ investments into high-quality journalism, starving publishers of traffic and creating conditions that encourage users to remain on its platform instead of clicking through to get the information directly from the original content creators.

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), first introduced on May 10, 2023, and released across the US effective May 14, 2024, uses publisher content to generate comprehensive “AI Overview” answers to user queries. In practice, says the Alliance, this means Google is generating “new” content derived from the content in its search index, including original and breaking news content, which it prioritizes at the top of its search results. By letting “Google do the googling,” the express intention of AI Overviews is to reduce demand to third-party websites.

News/Media Alliance President and CEO, Danielle Coffey said, “AI companies and news publications should coexist, but one-sided, forced offerings without the ability to opt out does not achieve that goal. Google claims that this new product will result in increased traffic, but one of many studies estimates that 90% of users will never leave Google’s search results page. Disintermediating publishers and readers and preventing publishers from monetizing their content will inevitably lead to the further decline of our news ecosystem and critical reporting Americans want and need.”

In addition, by replacing the need for users to visit publishers’ underlying websites, Google’s AI Overviews have significantly reduced publishers’ ability to monetize their content through advertising, subscriptions, and affiliate links, and instead driven that monetization directly to Google.

The letter also raises Google’s recently enacted Site Reputation Abuse policy that has effectively eradicated publishers’ coupon pages, and sports betting, lottery, and gaming content from Google Search results, harming not only publishers but also the millions of readers and businesses who rely on such content.

“Adding insult to injury, Google’s SGE/AI Overviews almost immediately began showing promo codes in response to some queries, even as it delisted rival publishers’ coupon sites offering identical types of promotions,” the letter states.

Coffey said, “Over time the value exchange that once existed with opting into Google search is no longer the reality. Feeding more of our content to users inside Google’s walls has not in fact led to proportionally increased revenue, as the dominant search engine asserts. Our white paper previously submitted on this topic demonstrates the cause and effect of this dynamic. This is yet another practice that cuts against publisher’s interests and will lead to further decline of quality content these AI offerings rely upon to deliver accurate results. This is bad for society, and bad for the AI offerings themselves.”

Read the full letter here.

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