Updated: January 8, 2022 4:10:49 am
The country’s antitrust regulator has ordered a probe into Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google, over allegations that the search giant has indulged in “abuse of dominance in news aggregation” and forced unfair terms on digital news publishers.
The complaint was filed by Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), an organisation of leading Indian digital media companies that promotes and protects the interest of digital news publishers. The Association had said a majority of the traffic on news websites comes from online search engines, wherein Google is the most dominant search engine and consequently gets to decide the share of ad revenues to be paid to digital news publishers.
“In view of Google’s market position in the online digital advertising intermediation services, the alleged unilateral and non-transparent determination and sharing of ad revenues appears to be an imposition of unfair conditions on publishers,” the Competition Commission of India (CCI) noted in its order.
The Commission also noted that the alleged unilateral decision by Google to not pay for the use of snippets of content produced by new publishers was also “a prima facie violation” of competition law. The competition regulator noted that news publishers seemed to be dependent on Google for the majority of online traffic making them dependent on the search giant.
Accordingly, the CCI has directed the Director General (DG) to carry out an investigation into the matter under the provisions of Section 26(1) of the Act. The CCI will also examine allegations that Google gives content publishers no choice, but to implement Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard or lose critical placement in mobile search. The DG has been asked to complete the investigation within 60 days.
In its submissions to the CCI, the DNPA noted that “more than 50 per cent of the total traffic on the news websites is routed through Google” and that the company determined, through its algorithms, which publishers receive traffic.
The DNPA also said that publishers were forced to build mirror-image websites using this format, with Google caching (storing) all articles in the AMP format and serving the content directly to mobile users, and that paywall options for such articles were restricted unless publishers rebuild their paywall options for AMP.
A number of countries including Australia, France and Spain have passed legislation to require tech companies to pay content producers for using their content on search results.
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