Newspaper industry calls for "urgent investigation" into Facebook, Google and fake news

William Turvill
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The News Media Association has called for Ofcom, the CMA and the Information Commissioner's Office to investigate the online giants (Source: Getty)

The newspaper industry has today cranked up the pressure of Google and Facebook, calling for an “urgent investigation” into their impact on the media landscape and fake news.

The News Media Association (NMA) wants broadcast regulator Ofcom and/ or the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to examine the “Google-Facebook duopoly”.

In its submission to a Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into fake news, the NMA has also demanded a probe into the “digital advertising supply chain”, which has been described by Procter & Gamble as “murky at best, fraudulent at worst”.

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The NMA said: “UK news publishers are squeezed by the Facebook-Google duopoly and by new forms of digital advertising that very often bypass real news for fake.”

With revenues falling rapidly in the industry, the NMA is concerned that web giants like Google and Facebook benefit from their journalism with no cost to themselves.

The NMA told the committee that the press is “society’s single best defence against fake news but that action is needed to ensure the news media sector’s investigative journalism and fact-checking can survive and thrive in the digital environment”.

The submission said:

Fake news companies find it easier to thrive online than real news companies because they do not have the overheads that professional news-gathering entails. These overheads are very difficult to cover in a digital news environment which rewards the distribution of content by internet platforms far more generously than it does those who create it.

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The NMA also called for the Information Commissioner’s Office to examine whether Google and Facebook “are in a dominant position in relation to the collection, aggregation, processing and sale of the personal data of their users”.

The industry also wants a regulatory review of the “status of Google and Facebook” to determine “whether they should continue to be considered mere intermediaries, and what additional responsibilities they should bear”.

Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of Johnston Press and NMA chairman, said: “Government and regulators cannot ignore forever the impact of the Google-Facebook duopoly on our media landscape.”

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