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Report: Italian regulators expand Google probe

A week after investigating complaints about Google News, antitrust regulators in Italy have reportedly expanded that investigation to include Google search.

Italian regulators have expanded their investigation of Google News to include the company's search engine in that country, according to reports.

IDG News Service reported Friday that Italy's Antitrust Authority wants to now take a closer look at Google's overall operation, a week after it followed up on complaints from news publishers that Google was excluding them from search results unless they agreed to be in Google News. Google denies the charges.

Google's 90 percent search share of the Italian market is apparently causing regulators to wonder whether Google is having a disproportionate effect on online advertising in Italy.

Google has faced increasing competition-related scrutiny in its home country, but so far that has mainly concerned areas other than search, such as Google Books and CEO Eric Schmidt's former role as a member of Apple's board of directors. Some observers, such as Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan, think Italian regulators are either confused or looking for a fight, given the clear instructions Google has provided on how to opt out of search or news separately.

Updated 10:20 a.m. PDT - Apparently the transfer of the case to the U.S. offices of Google, rather than Google Italy, was merely a procedural thing since Google U.S. runs Google News, not the subsidiaries in a particular country.

"This is a technical change because Google Italy doesn't provide Google News. We pointed this out to the Authority when they visited us last week so we're not surprised by this decision," Google said in a statement.