Meta faces €550m advertising lawsuit from Spanish media

5 Dec 2023

Image: © Diego/

The AMI claims Meta has developed a dominant position in the advertising market by ignoring EU regulation and that these practices jeopardise the survival of media groups.

A group representing 83 Spanish media outlets has filed a €550m lawsuit against Meta and claims that the company has breached EU data protection rules.

The Association of Information Media (AMI) claims Meta conducted “systematic and massive non-compliance” between 25 May 2018 and 31 July 2023. The lawsuit claims the Facebook owner ignores regulations that state EU citizens must consent to the use of their data for advertising profiling.

The use of personal data for the purpose of advertising is known as targeted advertising or behavioural advertising.  The AMI claims Meta has obtained 100pc of its targeted advertising revenue in the EU in an illegitimate way, according to a translated statement by the media group.

This group also claims that the tech giant has developed a dominant position in the advertising market by disregarding EU regulation and that these actions jeopardise the survival of media. The AMI claims that the dominance of large platforms like Meta has caused unfair competition and that it prevents media groups from obtaining fair monetisation.

Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters, but a source familiar with the matter said the company had not yet received the legal documents from the AMI.

Targeted advertising concerns

The company behind Facebook and Instagram has faced various legal challenges for its use of targeted advertising. In January, the company was hit with a €390m fine from Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) for GDPR breaches and ordered to bring its data processing operations into compliance with EU regulations.

In March, Meta agreed to change its targeted advertising practices in order to comply with this January ruling. The company changed the legal basis around how it processes some data in Europe from ‘contractual necessity’ to ‘legitimate interests’.

This measure was not enough for the European Data Protection Board, however. In October, this entity ordered Ireland’s DPC to ban Meta’s personal data processing practices for the purpose of behavioural advertising across the entire European Economic Area.

Meta has taken an alternative approach to deal with the targeted advertising concerns, by offering users of Facebook and Instagram the choice the use an ad-free subscription model.

But privacy rights group NOYB recently filed a GDPR complaint against Meta over this option. The group claimed this ‘pay for your rights’ model goes against GDPR and that users may have to pay thousands of euro a year to remain private if other companies follow Meta’s approach.

Meanwhile, Canada passed Bill C-18 in June, which seeks to bring “fair revenue sharing” between digital platforms and news outlets. This would essentially make companies like Meta have to pay media outlets for content being shared on sites like Facebook.

Meta responded to this Online News Act in August by cutting off news access on Facebook and Instagram for users in Canada and claimed media outlets voluntarily share content on these social media platforms to help their bottom line.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic