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Google strikes back at News Corp.'s antitrust complaint to EU

Amid a tangle with EU regulators over how it displays search results, Google gets into a war of words with Rupert Murdoch's media giant.

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Google published a response to News Corp's open letter, entitled "Dear Rupert" Getty Images

Google has some pointed words for Rupert Murdoch, founder of the media giant News Corp.

Last week, News Corp. wrote an open letter to Joaquin Almunia, the European Union's competition commissioner, criticizing the search giant for its business tactics. Robert Thompson, News Corp.'s chief executive, wrote that Google is a "platform for piracy," and said the company "routinely configures its search results in a manner that is far from objective."

The public spat took another turn on Thursday, when Google published a blog post aimed not at Thompson, but the face of News Corp., entitled "Dear Rupert."

In a point by point response to News Corp.'s specific claims, Rachel Whetstone, Google's senior vice president of global communications, said "Google has done more than almost any other company to help tackle online piracy."

The feud between Google and News Corp. comes amid a four-year antitrust investigation by European regulators into Google's practices around surfacing search results . In February, Google reached a tentative settlement with the commission over complaints that the company allegedly favors its own products and services over those of competitors in search results. As part of the settlement proposal, Google agreed to display search results for its own services in the same way as those for rival companies, but did not have to pay a fine.

Google's proposed settlement has come under fire after widespread criticism and complaints, including from European politicians, competitors like Microsoft,and publishers like News Corp. The media giant owns a handful of European outlets, including The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Times and The Sun. On Tuesday, Almunia told Google that if it did not improve its settlement proposal, the company would face formal charges from the commission.

Both companies declined to comment beyond their respective letters. "We're letting the letter speak for itself," a News Corp. spokesperson said.

In Whetstone's post, Google touted its role in shoring up traffic to publishers, noting that it drives 10 billion clicks a month to 60,000 publishers' websites. The company mentioned the local listings service Yelp and travel accommodations site Expedia -- who have both criticized the way Google displays competitors' search results -- as brands Google has helped in terms of revenue and traffic.

As for News Corp.'s claim that Google enables piracy, the company said it took down 222 million websites in 2013 that infringed on copyrights, and that the company "downgrades" repeat offenders in Google searches. The average take-down time for copyright violators is six hours, Whetstone noted.

Google's post was also tongue-in-cheek at times. In response to the idea that Google favors YouTube videos over others, the company said a search for "videos of Robert Thomson News Corp" brings up BBC and The Wall Street Journal content above YouTube.

"We only show YouTube results when they're relevant to a search query," wrote Whetstone.

News Corp.'s letter last week also said that the once "shining vision" put in place by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin -- who famously coined the mantra "Don't be evil" -- has been replaced by "cynical management." Whetstone pointed to the pairs' involvement with ambitious projects including driverless cars and Wi-Fi-beaming balloons.

"Larry Page and Sergey Brin are still very much at the helm of Google," she wrote.

The company also took a final dig at the media giant toward the end of the post, linking to a crude cover of the News Corp.-owned tabloid The Sun in response to the claim that Google's behavior toward publishers helps "lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialogue in our society."