As if Google didn't have enough governmental bodies breathing down its neck, now the company is in trouble in Italy. According to Reuters, the country's antitrust regulatory body is investigating charges by the Italian Federation of Newspaper Editors that Google forces the publications to appear on the Google Italy News site if they also want their sites to be indexed by the web search engine.
Publishers that are members of the association are repeating what has become a mantra among newspapers, that even though Google News drives traffic, it also cuts down their ability to attract online audiences because many people are satisfied with seeing headings and lead sentences at the aggregation site.The anti-trust body, which said it had notified Google Italy during an inspection on Thursday with the finance police, said it would look into the "possibility that this could distort the online advertising market".According to some reports, officials have already searched the company's offices in Italy, so this is significantly beyond a "we're checking into it" statement. The charges are also serious. Google has maintained that publishers are free to include a line of code that will keep the sites off Google News, but these are the first public allegations that Google might offer a reprisal against those that do.