News publisher files class action antitrust lawsuit against Google, citing damage AI could do to their bottom line


A new class action lawsuit filed this week in US District Court in DC on behalf of news publishers accuses Google and parent company Alphabet of anti-competitive behavior in violation of US antitrust laws, the Sherman Act and others. The case, filed by Arkansas-based publisher Helena World Chronicle, argues that Google “stalks” news publishers’ content, their readers and advertising revenue in anti-competitive ways. It specifically cites new AI technologies like Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) and Bard AI chatbot as making the problem worse.

In the complaint, the Helena World Chronicle, which owns and publishes two weekly newspapers in Arkansas, argues that Google is “starving the free press” by sharing publishers’ content on Google, costing them “billions of dollars.” “It is being lost.

In addition to new AI technologies, the lawsuit points to Google’s older question-answering technologies like the “Knowledge Graph,” launched in May 2012, as part of the problem.

“When a user searches for information on a topic, Google displays a ‘Knowledge Panel’ on the right side of the search results. This panel contains a summary of content taken from the Knowledge Graph database,” the complaint states. “Google compiled this massive database by extracting information from publishers’ websites – what Google calls ‘shared content across the web’ – and from ‘open source and licensed databases,'” it says.

By 2020, the knowledge graph had grown to 500 billion facts about 5 billion entities. But the complaint alleges that much of the “collective intelligence” used by Google was material misappropriated from publishers.

Other Google technologies, such as “Featured Snippets” where Google algorithmically extracts answers from webpages, were also cited as drawing traffic away from publishers’ websites.

Perhaps more importantly, the suit tackles how AI will impact publishers’ businesses. The problem was recently detailed in a report by The Wall St. Journal on Thursday, which revealed a shocking statistic. When online magazine The Atlantic modeled what would happen if Google integrated AI into search, it found that 75% of the time the AI ​​would answer a user’s question without requiring a click-through to its website, leading to Traffic will be lost. According to data from SimilarWeb, this could have a big impact on publishers’ traffic going forward, as Google drives about 40% of their traffic today.

Some publishers are now trying to get ahead of the problem. For example, Axel Springer just this week signed a deal with OpenAI to license its news for AI model training. But overall, publishers believe they will lose 20 to 40 percent of their website traffic when Google’s AI products are fully implemented, the WSJ reports.

The lawsuit reiterates this concern, claiming that Google’s recent advances in AI-based search “were implemented with the goal of discouraging end users from visiting Class Members’ websites that are in line with the digital news and publishing Are part of commerce.”

SGE, he argues, provides a way for Web searchers to obtain information in a conversational manner, but ultimately keeps users in Google’s “walled garden” as it “steals” their content. Publishers also cannot block SGE because it uses a web crawler similar to Google’s general search service, GoogleBot.

Also, it says Google’s Bard AI was trained on a dataset that included “news, magazine and digital publications”, for reference see the News Media Alliance’s 2023 report and a Washington Post article about AI training data. Both were cited. (The Post, which worked with researchers at the Allen Institute for AI, found that news and media sites were the third-largest category of AI training data.)

The case also points to other concerns, such as changes in AdSense rates and evidence of Google improperly destroying chat messages – similar to Epic Games’ recent case against Google over App Store antitrust issues. An issue raised in the lawsuit, which Epic won.

In addition to damages, the lawsuit is seeking an injunction that would require Google to obtain consent from publishers to use their website data to train its general artificial intelligence products, including Google’s own and those of rivals. It also asks Google to, among other things, allow publishers who opt out of SGE to still appear in Google search results.

The US lawsuit follows a deal Google reached with the Canadian government last month under which the search giant will pay Canadian media for the use of their content. Under the terms of the deal, Google will provide $73.5 million (100 million Canadian dollars) each year to news organizations in the country, with the money distributed based on the number of news outlets. Negotiations with Meta are still unresolved, although Meta began blocking news in Canada in August in the face of pressure to pay for content under new Canadian legislation.

The case coincides with the filing of a US Justice Department lawsuit against Google for monopolizing digital advertising technologies, and references a 2020 Justice Department civil antitrust lawsuit over search and search advertising, (which was the most recent There are separate markets from digital advertising technologies in the lawsuit) ).

“The anti-competitive effects of Google’s plan deeply harm competition, consumers, workers, and the democratic free press,” said an announcement posted on the website of Hosfeld, the law firm handling the case.

“Plaintiffs seek class-wide monetary and injunctive relief to restore and ensure competition for The Helena World Chronicle, LLC digital news and reference publishing and to establish guardrails to preserve the free marketplace of ideas in the new era.” Enacts the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act.” Artificial intelligence,” it says.

Google has been asked for comment, but has not yet provided comment.

The complaint is available below.

Helena World Chronicle, LLC vs. Google LLC and Alphabet Inc. by TechCrunch on Scribd

Source link

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *