The News Media Alliance has told the Federal Trade Commission that it needs to take action to "rein in tech giants' anticompetitive conduct."
That came in comments to the agency in advance of a planned series of public hearings over the next six months or so on competition and consumer protection policy in the digital age.
The alliance represents almost 2,000 news outlets.
It told the FTC that the Googles and Facebooks of the world did not get to be dominant in distribution and monetization on their merits alone. Instead, "they have grown with the assistance of serial acquisitions and exclusionary conduct aimed at nascent competitors and technologies that threaten to supplant their positions."
NMA also said those tech giants are using that market power to force practices on their members that threaten the viability of the news business.
One thing NMA takes issue with what they say is social media platforms' "unwillingness to prioritize and identify the original source of news content, even for a limited time. This solution would greatly benefit news publishers who spend significant time and resources on long-term investigative journalism that is then repackaged and distributed by those who do not make similar investments."
"Google and Facebook now control what news consumers around the country see. This puts them in a position of enormous—indeed, unprecedented—power," NMA told the FTC. "While the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting the public’s access to particular sources of information, there is nothing stopping either Google or Facebook from doing the same thing.
"The two tech giants exploit this lack of oversight by steering users to specific sources of news content. They use secret, opaque AI-run algorithms to decide which news articles appear in a user’s search results and social media feed based on priorities they impose (e.g., speed, free, links), and they have the power to manipulate these algorithms to suit any purpose."
"The platforms use demotion to force publishers to adopt business models and practices that run counter to their own interests, but that serve the platforms’ commercial goals," it said. And if news outlets are demoted in the search hierarchy, it can have "catastrophic consequences" for site traffic, it added.