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The $600 million legal battle: Meta versus Spanish media

Will Meta’s disregard for GDPR result in a $600 million loss?

Meta headquarters building
Image: AP Photo

Meta has had its fair share of lawsuits. It got hit in 2012 for tracking logged-out users. In 2015, Chia Hong filed for gender discrimination (via CNN). In 2020, the IRS pursued tax evasion.

These are only a few highlights — if you can even call them that, of Meta’s ongoing legal troubles. So, what now?

Let’s look at Meta’s current trouble in paradise that might cost them $600 million (via Reuters) from the voracious AMI publishing association.

Yet another Meta data privacy matter

laptop with privacy screen on a wooden desk to illustrate meta's issues with data privacy
Image: Unsplash

Meta is no stranger to unethical data use across its social media properties, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Now, 83 Spanish media outlets are trying to reopen the wound. Why did Spain’s most prominent newspapers suddenly collaborate? Because Meta has blatantly ignored EU data legislation since 2018. 

AMI wants Meta to stop pulling so much data from its platforms

The dystopian-level personalized ads are evidence of Meta’s marketing monopoly. Spanish media companies are suing to give everyone else a chance at the limelight. But it’s about more than money and ad real estate.

Firstly, Meta creates an impossible advertising landscape. Secondly, it’s not compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation. 

The consortium knows this because it sees ads using personal data without asking for consent.

How can newspapers advertise ethically when there is unethical competition swarming every webpage? It’s hard to get away with that nowadays, even as the world’s leading adtech behemoth. 

Too many stopgaps like this legal kerfuffle will prevent Meta from spending money and time on more worthwhile ventures, like developing foundational models for the world’s new favorite thing — artificial intelligence.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of Meta or not. They are massive contributors to tech innovation that lawsuits do encroach upon.

Why AMI might lose

Legal Transcript in court room typing
Image: Unsplash

History hasn’t been the kindest to older media formats in the courtroom. Tech moguls tend to have the upper hand, with more money and lawyers to spare fighting for their interests.

It’s the ideal time to do so, too, as copyright law and navigating online privacies are still relatively new legal territories.

Meta also had a startlingly powerful quarter, especially with its recent addition of Threads. Revenue for Q4 hit $34.15 billion, a 23% year-over-year increase.

A measly $600 million court case feels almost laughable, but it doesn’t make the issue less essential to bring to legal battlegrounds.

Why AMI might win

Spain has set a precedent despite the circumstances. Its media outlets targeted Alphabet in 2014, which shut down Google News in the country.

Newspapers didn’t want their content republished in full or partially without compensation. Seems fair.

Alphabet wasn’t willing to pay a collective licensing fee to make it happen, so they were out of the picture for a long time.

Google News returned to Spain in 2022, only after a few legal revisions. At least news publishers can talk directly to Google now to outline payment terms.

What is the biggest fear Meta should have? Just about any country in the EU could issue this same lawsuit because the GDPR is a blanket over all members.

Who’s to say Meta won’t hear from any other nations soon? The court fees and settlement costs might start to add up to a number it can’t ignore.

Meta needs to pay attention

Whether you’re the average social media user or a tech giant, everyone must start taking legislation like the GDPR seriously.

Court cases like this are necessary touchpoints for critical discussions in digital safety and ethical advertising. Who do you think will come out on top?

No matter who does, everyone has something to learn from AMI.

Have any thoughts on this? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Staff writer at ReHack Magazine with a passion for cybersecurity, AI, and all things tech. Offline, you'll find me cruising the neighborhood on my motorcycle or bingeing the latest true crime documentary.

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