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Google faces investigation after Italian newspapers complain

LONDON - Italy's Competition Authoritiy is launching an investigation into Google after the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers complained about the lack of transparency in how Google News delivers results.

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The Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers is concerned that Google is using its dominant position to stop publishers from earning their fair share of online ad revenues. Because so much traffic is directed to publisher sites from Google News, the rankings can have an influence how much ad revenue those sites earn.

Carlo Malinconico, president of the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers, told the New York Times: "Publishers provide much of the content on the internet, but they get nearly nothing for it. This is not fair, in our opinion. Our feeling is we lose more than we gain."

Full details of what is being investigated are not yet available, but Google has confirmed the investigation is going ahead.

A Google spokesperson said: "The Competition Authority has notified us of a claim against Google Italy. We're finding out more details today although we do know that it's in relation to Google News which drives significant traffic and new readers to newspaper websites.''

Newspapers have previously questioned the role of Google News in online publishing, variously accusing Google of making money off the back of their content without any recompense, to questioning the fairness of rankings.

Google has responded by saying that publishers can prevent indexation to stop their content from appearing on Google News if they request it.

Seperately, the EU commissioner for media, Viviane Reding, has said she supports Google's project to digitise books and make them available online.

A deal giving Google permission to do so in the US has been objected to by the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, with the result that the US Justice Department is now examining it.

However, Reding said this week: "Google Books is a commercial project developed by an important player. It is good to see that new business models are evolving which could allow bringing more content to an increasing number of consumers."

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