Google Targeted as German Attack on Silicon Valley Gathers Pace

Google’s news service became the latest target of an almost weekly assault on U.S. tech giants by Germany’s antitrust chief Andreas Mundt.

The Google News Showcase will be examined by the Federal Cartel Office to check if Google’s terms offer “unreasonable conditions” to publishers involved and whether they hamper them using extra copyright introduced under a law passed last month, the German authority said in a statement on Friday.

The move follows a probe announced last week into Google’s data terms and one the week before into Amazon.com Inc. The cases show the German antitrust regulator seizing new powers to scrutinize big tech. It’s quizzing the companies under new measures that let it move against so-called digital platforms that play a crucial role in the online economy. Its probes also include one into Facebook Inc.

Publishers have long tried to get Google to pay for, or give them, some more control over how news is displayed in the company’ services. Their complaints have embroiled the company in regulatory rows from Australia to France. Google’s Showcase in Germany initially involved 20 media companies who get licensing fees when their stories were shown in Google News and search.

“Cooperating with Google can be an attractive option for publishers and other news providers and offer consumers new or improved information services,” Mundt, the cartel office’s president said in the statement. “However, it must be ensured that this will not result in discrimination between individual publishers.”

Google says it “will cooperate fully with the German Competition Authority and look forward to answering their questions,” said spokesperson Kay Oberbeck in an email.

“Showcase is an international licensing program for news - the selection of partners is based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria, and partner content is not given preference in the ranking of our results,” he said.

A complaint from Corint Media GmbH triggered the complaint, the Cartel Office said. The probe will also check whether adding Showcase to Google’s general search is a form of “self-preferencing” with Google pushing its own services to the detriment of rival offerings.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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