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News hits out after record Google EU fine

Google is facing broader criticism from News Corp after being found guilty of breaching antitrust laws and fined $AU3.57 billion by the European Union.

Google was fined the record amount after it was found by the EU to have “abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product” in the realm of online shopping. Prosecutors argued that rival shopping sites that offered consumers alternate products were being hidden in favour of Google’s own product.

The search company now has 90 days to rectify the problem and report back to the EU, otherwise, it faces additional fines of up to 5 per cent of the daily turnover of parent company Alphabet.

Following the decision, News Corp issued a statement commending the EU’s decision.

“We applaud the European Commission’s leadership in confronting the discriminatory behaviour of Google in the comparison shopping industry. Other regulators and companies have been intimidated by Google’s overwhelming might, but the commission has taken a strong stand and we hope that this is the first step in remedying Google’s shameless abuse of its dominance in search.

“We strongly believe that the abuse of algorithms by dominant digital platforms should be of concern to every country and company seeking a fair, competitive and creative society. Google has profited from commodifying content and enabling the proliferation of flawed and fake news, to the detriment of journalism and of an informed society,” the statement read.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson
News Corp CEO Robert Thomson

The publisher’s position was made clear only weeks after the company’s chief executive Robert Thomson blasted Google’s algorithm.

The comments were made at the TechXLR8 conference in London on June 15, with Mr Thomson arguing that Google’s algorithms were not based on science but rather crafted to benefit the company’s revenue streams.

His comments also suggested the search company was to blame for the spread of fake news and the proliferation materials which created safety concerns for advertisers.

“There is a contradiction between the claimed sophistication of Google’s ability to target audiences and track taste for advertisers and its inability to identify the tasteless, the terroristic, the perverted and the pirated.

“The California consensus, the Silicon Valley sensibility, determines which sites receive more or less prominence – regardless of your political persuasion, the subjectivity of a supposedly objective platform should be of concern,” he said.

The comments followed Google deprioritising The Wall Street Journal’s articles after the masthead strengthened its digital subscription, scrapping the search engines “first click free” program. The program allows users to sample its work before deciding to subscribe. The WSJ chief marketing officer Suzi Watford argued that Google’s actions were not fair on sites that did not subscribe to the service.

“You are definitely being discriminated against as a paid news site,” Ms Watford told Bloomberg.

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