A consortium of 83 Spanish media outlets, represented by the AMI media association, has collectively filed a lawsuit seeking 550 million euros ($600 million) against Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META). The legal action, filed in a commercial court on Friday, accuses Meta of engaging in unfair competition within the advertising market, potentially setting a precedent for similar cases across the European Union.
In a statement on Monday, the AMI media association claimed that Meta, between 2018 and 2023, violated EU data protection rules. The media outlets argue that Meta’s extensive and systematic use of personal data from its platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, provides the company with an unfair advantage in designing and delivering personalized ads, constituting unfair competition.
Meta Platforms has not yet responded to the lawsuit, and a source familiar with the matter mentioned that the company had not received the legal documents.
Key complainants, such as Prisa (PRS.MC), the publisher of Spain’s primary newspaper El Pais, and Vocento (VOC.MC), the owner of ABC, assert that a significant portion of Meta’s advertisements utilize personal data obtained without explicit consent from users. According to the media outlets, this practice violates the EU General Data Protection Regulation implemented in May 2018, which mandates explicit authorization for the collection and use of personal data by any website.
Nicolas Gonzalez Cuellar, a lawyer representing the newspapers, highlighted that similar legal proceedings could potentially be initiated in any other EU country, as the allegations involve a violation of European regulations.
This lawsuit represents the latest effort by traditional media to confront tech giants in legal battles, aiming to protect their interests. Globally, media organizations have faced challenges in courts and legislative bodies as they seek fair compensation from tech giants for the use and sharing of their content.
In the past, Spanish media achieved a victory against Alphabet’s Google News service, leading to its shutdown in 2014. The service later reopened in 2022 under new legislation, allowing media outlets to negotiate fees directly with the tech giant. Following this precedent, several countries, including Canada earlier this year, have implemented regulations compelling internet giants to pay for news.
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