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Google News' Italian Problem

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Newspapers complaining about Google (NSDQ: GOOG) News? Not new. But in Italy, they’ve managed to spur the government into investigating whether the company has abused its dominant position on the internet. The Italian Competition Authority searched the company’s offices in Milan this morning, according to several news reports.

The investigation follows a complaint by the Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers about a lack of transparency in how Google handles Google News. Association President Carlo Malinconico tells the NYT that his group wants more information about the ranking process so that papers can adjust their online content accordingly. The main allegation: If publishers don’t make their stories available on Google News, they also don’t show up in Google’s search results. “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,” Malinconico says.

Fine. And publishers in the United States have made similar points. But it seems like overkill to get the Italian government involved, considering that Google is making information about the ranking process available to no one, so it’s not as though one news source has an advantage over another. And Google does say that publishers can have their results show up in Google web search but not Google news, as long as they contact the company. (Danny Sullivan is also skeptical about the newspapers’ arguments).

Here’s Google’s statement to the NYT: “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