Google News investigated for alleged discrimination in Italy

By EDRi · September 9, 2009

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Deutsch: [Ermittlungen gegen Google News in Italien wegen angeblicher Diskriminierung |]

The Italian Competition Authority opened an investigation on 27 August 2009
in relation to Google News after the Italian Editors Association (FIEG)
claimed Google was discriminating those publishers choosing not to appear on
the Italian version of Google News, by automatically excluding them from its
primary search engine as well.

Various Italian newspapers consider they are deprived of attracting users
and advertisers to their own web sites when their stories turn up on Google
News. However, they have no problem in appearing on Google search engine.

The strongest argument of the investigation is the alleged Google “dominant
position” in internet searches, making things difficult for Italian
publishers who decide not to appear in Google News. But, although it is
obvious that Google is largely preferred by Italian users as a search
engine, this is mainly due to its efficiency.

As Andrea Monti from EDRi-member ALCEI points out, “dominant position is a
concept belonging to the Antitrust law and depicts a situation where a
company stays in its market in a fair stronger position then its
competitors, thus setting the rules for competition. Oddly enough, this is
the first time, at least in Italy, where Google is “charged” of not making
contents available, while in the past its management has been accused of not
removing ‘disturbing contents’ from its indexes”.

One characteristic feature of the dominant position is the customer’s
so-called “locked-in syndrome” which means that when a user buys a product,
certain technological characteristics make it impossible for the buyer to
switch to another similar competing product as it was in Microsoft’s case.
With Google, users can buy advertising services wherever they like, and use
other search-engines if they so want. There is nothing that Google can do
but to continuously improve its services in order to preserve its users.

“We don’t display the news stories in their entirety. Rather, our approach
is akin to that of web search: we simply show the headlines, a line or two
of text and a link to the site – just enough information to make the user
want to read the full story. Once a user clicks through to the article, it’s
up to the news publisher to decide how to profit from this free traffic” is
Google’s statement in this matter.

Also Google stated that it already had a meeting this year with FIEG where
it explained that all its over 25 000 sources from all over the world
are in complete control in relation to whether they want to be found on
Google services. “So if a news publisher doesn’t want to be found on, or any other reputable search engines, it can prevent
indexation automatically via a universally accepted Internet standard called
robots.txt. Publishers also have a range of other ways of controlling how
their content appears (or doesn’t). One such option is for a publisher to
continue to appear in Google web search, but not in Google News. In that
case, all they need to do is contact us to be removed. In fact, we met with
several Italian publishers and representatives of FIEG just this summer to
explain these options,” said Google in the comment published on their blog.

As regarding Google News, Google says there are more requests for inclusion
than for removal because “publishers understand that the traffic generated
by Google News, and services like it, provide valuable traffic: Google News
sends over 1 billion clicks per month to news publishers.”

Italian Antitrust to storm on Google News? (28.08.2009)

Italian Antitrust to storm on Google News?

More on the Italian Antitrust investigation upon Google News (1.09.2009)

More on the Italian Antitrust investigation upon Google News

Google probed by Italy’s anti-trust arm (27.08.2009)

About Google News In Italy (27.08.2009)

Google abuses the news ? (only in Italian, 27.08.2009)