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House Opens Tech Antitrust Inquiry With Look at Threat to News Media The New York Times

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House Opens Tech Antitrust Inquiry With Look at Threat to News Media The New York Times WASHINGTON — A congressional investigation into the power of big tech companies began on Tuesday with bipartisan concern from lawmakers that the governments lax oversight of the industry may be doing more harm than good In its first hearing about the power held by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, lawmakers focused on the decline of the news industry

They said they were troubled that the online digital advertising market, which is dominated by Google and Facebook, had siphoned off too much revenue from news organizations Concentration in the digital advertising market has pushed local journalism to the verge of extinction, said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island The hearing was the start of the House Judiciary Committees inquiry into possible anticompetitive behavior by big tech companies, part of a rising wave of federal scrutiny of the industry The House committee plans In addition, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, the two top antitrust agencies, recently divided antitrust oversight over Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google

The close reviews could lead to years of troubles for the companies, through lawsuits or new laws European regulators have already taken a tough stance against the companies, investigating how they handle user data, police speech and limit competition Mr Cicilline, who is leading the Judiciary Committees investigation, said he would explore a variety of issues He said the committee would look into whether the dominant social network, Facebook, had harmed consumers with its handling of data, for example

He said it also planned to look into whether Amazon had hurt smaller retailers The House investigation will look into whether the Justice Department and FTC have adequately enforced antitrust laws

Mr Cicilline said Facebooks acquisitions of WhatsApp in 2014, for instance, now appeared anticompetitive, even though federal regulators had approved it I have very serious concerns about the FTC

s commitment to these issues, Mr Cicilline told reporters after the hearing Tuesdays hearing gave publishers a microphone after years of complaining about the big tech platforms The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing 2,000 news organizations, including The New York Times, has long argued that Facebook and Google have become the biggest online advertising companies at the expense of publishers, which now rely on the platforms to find audiences Leaders of the committee have pushed for passage of a bill that would give news organizations the ability to band together to negotiate greater compensation from online services that distribute their news

Lawmakers of both parties pointed out how some of their local newspapers had shut down in recent years Smaller news organizations dont stand a fair negotiating chance when they try to negotiate deals with the platform giants, said Representative Doug Collins, a Republican from Georgia and a co author of the bill with Mr Cicilline These giants stand as a bottleneck — a classic antitrust problem — between consumers and the producers of news content David Pitofsky, the general counsel of News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, said that the marketplace for news is broken

Online platforms are free riding by selling ads tied to News Corps content without paying to create it, he said Those ads take money away from publishers individual sites, Mr Pitofsky said, because advertisers now prefer services that aggregate news News Corp supports Mr Cicilline and Mr

Collinss Journalism Competition and Preservation Act The law would exempt the publishers from antitrust rules for four years, protecting them from charges of price collusion We are not losing business to an innovator who has found a better or more efficient way, Mr Pitofsky said Mr

Cicilline said that 2,900 reporters and other news staff had lost their jobs this year, and that news ad revenue had dropped to dollar 156 billion in 2017 from dollar 49 billion in 2006 Matt Schruers, a vice president at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, said at the hearing that his tech industry trade group accepted additional scrutiny because of the size of the companies being reviewed by Congress And he said the industry wanted to encourage good journalism But Mr

Schruers said giving antitrust exemptions to publishers was risky and could ultimately harm consumers and the economy Google, in a statement, said: Weve worked for many years to be a collaborative and supportive technology and advertising partner to the news industry as it works to adapt to the new economics of the internet Facebook did not respond to a request for comment Lawmakers also heard from David Chavern, the chief executive of the News Media Alliance He encouraged lawmakers to support the proposed antitrust exemption for publishers

And Kevin Riley, the editor of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, testified that if the news industry continued on its current trajectory, many important local stories would not be adequately covered Social media and technology companies have enormous influence on the distribution and availability of news, Mr Riley said in his prepared remarks But we should be worried about losing newspapers, the fountainheads within the local news ecosystem

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