Google's Antitrust Woes in EU Deepen Even as It Gets Break in Canada

Google is unfairly using content from publishers in search results, News Corp says in a formal EU complaint.


Google's antitrust woes in Europe deepened this week with News Corp, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, accusing Google of using its dominance to unfair advantage in the search engine space.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, Google won a welcome reprieve in Canada where the country's Competition Bureau this week cleared the company of charges of anti-competitive behavior there.

The Wall Street Journal Monday reported that its parent company had filed a formal complaint with European Union authorities over Google's practice of using content from publishers to anchor links to news stories in its search results.

News Corp is apparently concerned that Google is reinforcing its position in the Internet search space by copying or scraping content from publisher Websites and using the content in search results, the Journal reported. News Corp has alleged that in cases where a publisher does not want its content to be copied, Google does not show the publisher's articles at all, the Journal said, quoting a source close to the matter.

Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the News Corp complaint. But this is not the first time the company has been accused of unfairly benefiting from the content of other publishers in Europe.

In fact, in 2014, the company temporarily shut down Google News in Spain after authorities there passed a law requiring search engine companies such as Google to pay publishers a royalty for every news snippet used to anchor search results. The law resulted from complaints by publishers in Spain that Google was unfairly benefiting from using their content without paying for it.

Days after Google pulled out, the publishers relented and asked the company to reverse its decision over concerns of a sharp drop-off in traffic to their sites.

Publishers in Germany raised similar complaints against Google last year. VG Media, a consortium of German publishers, had demanded that Google pay a small copyright fee for every headline, text snippet and image that it scraped from a publisher's Website and used on Google News. In response, Google began using only news headlines to anchor story links.

But just as with Spain, the German publishers quickly backed off their demand, citing a decline in traffic to their Websites following Google's move.

It's unclear whether the News Corp complaint involves the same issue.

The News Corp move comes even as the EU's Commissioner for Competition is reportedly set to bring new charges against Google over an Android bundling requirement that rivals have claimed is unfair. Such an action would significantly broaden the EU's ongoing investigation of Google over a range of other allegedly anti-competitive behavior.

Meanwhile, in a welcome break for the company, Canadian authorities this week said they could find no evidence that Google's practices were hurting rivals. Like competition authorities in several other countries, Canada's Competition Bureau has been looking into allegations of Google leveraging its market dominance to hurt rivals in the search advertising, online search and online display advertising markets.

Despite one violation of the country's laws, "the Bureau did not find sufficient evidence of a substantial lessening or prevention of competition in the market to support the other allegations," it said in a statement Tuesday.

In a statement, a Google spokesman expressed satisfaction with the Canadian bureau's decision to end its investigation. "We work hard in a competitive landscape to create a great experience for our users and help them quickly and easily find what they need from Google," the statement said.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.