A GROUP representing 83 newspapers in Spain has filed a €550 million lawsuit against Facebook owner Meta Platforms, claiming that its breaching advertising competition rules.

The case has been lodged by the AMI newspaper publishing association in the Madrid commercial court.

The papers say that said Meta’s ‘massive’ and ‘systematic’ use of personal data from the users of its Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp platforms allows it to get an unfair advantage to design and offer personalised ads that constitute unfair competition.

The complainants, comprising Prisa – which publishes El Pais – and Vocento, the owner of ABC and other media, as well as other privately owned groups, said most of the ads placed by Meta use personal data obtained without express consent from clients and thus violate data protection rules.

AMI president, Jose Joly Martínez de Salazar, claims that Meta has built a dominant position in the advertising market ‘disregarding the regulations’ that protect the privacy of users and has had a severe economic impact on other media, putting their sustainability at risk.

The damage is estimated at €550 million, which is the money that the plaintiffs calculate they have stopped receiving between 2018 and last July, according to an expert report included in the lawsuit.

This is an estimate based on a hypothetical scenario of the growth of the US company’s advertising revenue compared to that of AMI members now and a few years ago, before the new technology companies appeared on the scene.

The complaint is the second time that Spain’s media are challenging tech companies to protect their operations.

In 2014, the Spanish government forced the closure of Alphabet’s Google News service until 2022 when new legislation allowing media outlets to negotiate directly with the tech giant was passed.

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