A consortium representing 83 Spanish media entities announced on Monday that it has initiated legal action against Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook, seeking 550 million euros ($598 million) in damages. The lawsuit, filed by the AMI newspaper publishing association in a commercial court last Friday, alleges unfair competition in the advertising market.
The media outlets argue that Meta’s extensive and systematic utilization of personal data gathered from users across its Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp platforms provides the company with an unjust advantage in creating and presenting personalized ads, constituting unfair competition.
Key complainants in the lawsuit include Prisa, the publisher of Spain’s major newspaper El Pais, and Vocento, which owns ABC and other media outlets. The coalition of media organizations, which includes privately-owned groups, contends that a significant portion of Meta’s ads relies on personal data acquired without explicit consent from users, thus violating data protection regulations.
“Meta has repeatedly failed to comply with data protection legislation, ignoring the regulatory requirement that citizens must consent to the use of their data for advertising profiling, as can be seen from the different resolutions of the European authorities competent in this matter,” the consortium wrote in a press release.
“The systematic and massive use of personal data of users of Meta platforms, tracked without their consent throughout their digital browsing, would have allowed the American company to offer the sale of advertising space on the market based on an illegitimately obtained competitive advantage,” the press release wrote.
This marks the second instance where Spanish media entities are taking a stand against technology companies to safeguard their interests.
In 2014, the Spanish government compelled Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google News service to shut down. The service remained closed until 2022, following the enactment of new legislation that enabled media outlets to engage in direct negotiations with the tech giant.