(Bloomberg) — House Republicans are accusing an industry group of violating antitrust laws with its efforts to fight online misinformation.
In a letter Wednesday, GOP House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio raised concerns that the Global Alliance for Responsible Media — created by trade association World Federation of Advertisers and backed by the World Economic Forum — was violating US antitrust laws. The group’s more than 100 members include advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever Plc, alongside tech companies such as Meta Platforms Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok.
“GARM works with its members to demonetize and eliminate disfavored content online,” Jordan wrote, noting that the group created categories such as “debated sensitive social issues” where social media companies may want to restrict advertising. “This collusive conduct reduces consumer choice and cuts off access to diverse coverage on matters of national interest.”
That coordination may violate US antitrust law that bars agreements restricting trade, Jordan said. He asked the group and the World Federation of Advertisers to provide documents and information on its work to the panel by April 5.
While US antitrust law bars companies from getting together to reach agreements, there are some exceptions, such as when they band together to advocate for government action like legislation or rulemaking or when they join together to develop standards.
Launched in 2019, the Global Alliance for Responsible Media says it aims to create brand safety standards for social media advertising. In its 2022 annual report, the group said it had helped establish common definitions, metrics and tools to aid brands and their advertising partners in ensuring their ads don’t appear alongside content they may find problematic.
Republicans including Jordan and former President Donald Trump have decried social media platforms for allegedly censoring conservatives by directly removing posts or “demonetizing” them so they cannot receive the proceeds from online advertising that normally appears alongside popular content.
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