The order against the parent company of Google, Alphabet Inc. came on a complaint filed by the Digital News Publishers Association alleging that the platform forced unfair terms on digital news publishers.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has recently ordered a probe against internet giant Google over alleged abuse of dominant position in news aggregation. The CCI ordered the investigation against Alphabet Inc, the parent company of Google based on a complaint filed by the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA).
DNPA, an organisation of leading Indian digital media companies that promotes and protects the interest of digital news publishers, has alleged that the search giant has forced unfair terms on digital news publishers.
The Association had said that more than 50% of the total traffic on the news websites is routed through Google and being the dominant player, Google, by way of its algorithms, determines which news website gets discovered via search.
It further said that the members of the association have to suffer a loss of advertising revenues and the inability to bargain a fair share in the value chain of news dissemination, despite working and generating credible news. It further added that there is a lack of transparency in online digital advertising intermediation services, which makes it difficult for publishers to audit and verify the ad revenue generated on their websites.
“No doubt, Google, being the gateway, generates substantial traffic for news publishers, but at the same time, the bargaining power imbalance and denial of fair share in the advertising revenue, as alleged by the Informant, merit detailed investigation,” the Commission said.
The Commission also noted that the alleged unilateral decision by Google to not pay for the use of snippets of content produced by news 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.
Currently, the media houses that create most of the news content that draws traction for social media firms get very little from the social platforms.
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. In Australia, Google and other curators have already agreed to share a part of their revenue with publishers. Ministers in the UK and EU have cited Australia’s example as inspiration for potential future legislation. France has already implemented an EU copyright law with aims similar to the Code which Australia implemented.
In India too, the clamour for the same is growing and DNPA has been taking up the issue with the government on a regular basis. Last month, Telecom and IT Minister Ashwani Vaishnaw had said that the government was moving in the direction where publishers and content creators can be provided a fair share in revenue by social media platforms.
Reacting to the same, the Association (DNPA) had then shared that it is supportive of all efforts being made by the government to support independent journalism being done in India by certified journalists of media houses and the Association was willing to engage for strengthening of the digital ecosystem so that content creators/publishers get a fair share in the revenue.
The article is authored by Akanksha Nagar.