Antitrust cops probe Google Italy

Rome, Italy – The Italian antitrust watchdog is snuffling around Google Italy over claims that it is discriminating against newspapers that don’t want their content linked on Google’s news site.

Italy’s Carbonari raided Google Italy’s offices yesterday looking for evidence of anti-trust behavior.

The raid happened after the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers complained that Google is allegedly “hindering publishers in freely choosing ways of allowing use of news published on their own Internet sites.”

The publishers insist that having some of their newspapers’ content appear on Google News Italia would hurt the online newspapers in attracting users and advertising on their own home pages.

However, they claim that if they opt out of Google News, Google drops newspapers from its search engine. This prevents users going to their home pages and costs them money.

The Italian authority monitoring markets and competitions said in a statement that it was looking into whether Google might have an unfair advantage in reaping online advertising.

A Google Italy spokeswoman, Simona Panseri, said that if a newspaper asked to be excluded from Google News, it didn’t mean they were banned from the Google search engine.

However she declined to comment further until the Anti-Trust investigators had finished their inquiries.