Bruce Viemetti:

Two dozen small Wisconsin newspapers have sued Google and Facebook, claiming the firms’ grip on digital advertising threatens the publications’ existence and violates federal antitrust law.

Their 40-page federal lawsuit recaps the historical role of a free press in America, the decline of the newspaper industry and technical aspects of how it says Google controls the sales, purchase and placement of digital advertising.

“Google’s dominance of the digital advertising marketplace threatens the extinction of local news journalism across the country,” financial damage to publishers “and a profoundly negative effect on American democracy and civic life,” the suit states.

It was among about a dozen similar complaints filed by newspaper publishers in other states, said Michael J. Fuller Jr., an attorney with the law firm leading the effort.

Fuller said the team of plaintiffs’ lawyers hopes to follow a model it established suing pharmaceutical companies on behalf of local governments devastated by the opioid crisis, and that the many suits will be consolidated before a single federal judge and later attract participation of much larger newspaper publishers, like Gannett, which owns the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and more than 200 other papers.