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Italy Closes Google News Probe, Accepts Commitments

Italy’s antitrust authority closed a probe into Google Inc.’s news service for alleged abuse of its market position and accepted commitments proposed by the owner of the world’s most popular search engine.

As part of the agreement, Google will ensure that publishers opting out of Google News won’t have their content removed from its search results, the authority said on its website today. It will also “increase the transparency” on the revenue sharing of its AdSense service, the regulator said. AdSense is a free program that allows online publishers to earn revenue by displaying relevant ads on a “wide variety of online content,” according to the AdSense website.

“We have worked cooperatively with the Italian Competition Authority and our publishing partners to address their questions and concerns,” Google said in an e-mailed statement today. “While we comply with Italian and EU competition laws, we also understand that there is always room for improvement in our business.”

Google has faced criticism from publishers over its news and search services. The probe by the Italian watchdog followed complaints from an Italian publishers’ association in August 2009, which claimed Google’s news service deprived them of ad revenue. They also said Google wouldn’t display their content on its search engine unless it also appeared on its news pages.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, also faces a probe by the European Commission, which said Nov. 30 it’s investigating whether AdSense contracts prevent publishers from striking deals to place ads from other services on their sites.

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