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Germany says Google makes concessions in news probe

By AFP - Jan 12,2022 - Last updated at Jan 12,2022

BERLIN — Google offered to exclude its "Google News Showcase" service from general search results in Germany to end an investigation by the local antitrust regulator, the authority said on Wednesday.

"Google has proposed measures to respond to our competition concerns," Andreas Mundt, president of the Federal Cartel Authority, said in a statement.

"The company no longer plans to include Showcase content in the general search results," Mundt said.

The regulator said it will now carry out consultations in the press publishing sector to determine if the measures "fit the purpose". 

Google did not immediately comment on the case.

Launched on the German market in 2020, Google News Showcase offers publishers the opportunity to place journalistic content more prominently online.

The American tech giant planned to integrate the new platform into its main search results, which would have multiplied the audience for the material.

The regulator opened an inquiry after a complaint was filed by the publishing group Corint Media, which manages the rights of radio and television stations, as well as online news sites.

The publisher feared that news groups that had not signed an agreement with Google would see their content relegated in search results.

The integration of Google News Showcase into search results was "clearly designed to focus users' attention on the new Google-owned news service and its press content", Corint said in a statement when the inquiry was opened.

"This exploits Google's quasi-monopolistic position in the search engine market in an abusive manner to the detriment of press publishers not participating in the service," the group said.

The regulator also examined whether publishers who entered into an agreement with Google would be prevented from fully enforcing their so-called neighbouring rights that would allow outlets to demand compensation for use of their content.

Negotiations over Showcase would be "clearly separated from the ongoing negotiations regarding other ancillary copyright payments" in response to the issue, the regulator said.

Google also assured that access to the service will be based on "objective criteria", and will not discriminate between publishers for other, namely financial, reasons.

The announcement comes a few days after the regulator classified Google as a company of "paramount significance across markets", opening the door to enhanced surveillance of the tech giant.

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