Mar 11, 2021 - Technology

Microsoft exec will target Google's hold over news before Congress

Photo collage of Brad smith and an image of data

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

Microsoft president Brad Smith will sharply criticize Google for what he describes as a chokehold over the news business Friday, according to a copy of his opening remarks for a House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing obtained by Axios.

What's happening: Smith's testimony throws Microsoft's support behind Congressional efforts to limit the power and reach of big tech companies, including a bill that would let news organizations collectively negotiate with online content distributors.

The big picture: Microsoft, which faced its own federal lawsuit for monopolistic behavior two decades ago, is emerging today as a cheerleader for antitrust action against some of its rivals.

What they're saying: "News organizations have ad inventory to sell, but they can no longer sell directly to those who want to place ads," Smith will say, according to his remarks. "Instead, for all practical purposes they must use Google’s tools, operate on Google’s ad exchanges, contribute data to Google’s operations, and pay Google money."

  • "All this impacts the ability of news organizations to benefit economically even from advertising on their own sites."
  • Microsoft has said it knows the company will be subject to new regulations it is supporting.

Google, which struck a deal with News Corp to evade Australia's new news media code (a law which Microsoft also supports), has defended its treatment of and relationship with the news industry and suggested Microsoft is simply trying to undercut a competitor.

  • On Thursday Google put up a site detailing its financial support of journalism through its news showcase tools, various initiatives and payments to publishers.

Update: Google said in a blog post Friday morning Microsoft was being opportunistic as competition in its core business areas heats up: "They are reverting to their familiar playbook of attacking rivals and lobbying for regulations that benefit their own interests," SVP of global affairs Kent Walker wrote. "They are now making self-serving claims and are even willing to break the way the open web works in an effort to undercut a rival."

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