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Google to modify search displays in Europe in response to antitrust concerns

The European Commission [official website] announced [press release] Thursday that Google [corporate website] has agreed to provide clearer labeling of promoted links in order to assuage concerns that the search engine is abusing its dominance in the market by favoring its own products. This concession marks a significant step toward reaching an antitrust settlement that has been in dispute since the European Commission began investigating Google's near-monopoly in 2010. Google has offered to engage in market testing for one month, during which time Google will accept comments and proposals from interested parties. Google also proposes to, for a period of five years, offer clearer labels to indicate its own products such as Google News and Google Maps, allowing users to better distinguish between natural search results and those promoted by the search engine. Additionally, Google users will be given the option to "opt-out from the use of all their content in Google's specialized search services." Both parties are hopeful that they will reach a final settlement on this antitrust issue by the summer.

Google formally offered concessions [JURIST report] to the European Commission for a possible settlement in the antitrust investigation against the company earlier this month. In January the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] held that Google did not violate [JURIST report] antitrust or anticompetition laws. The claims in the case were similar to those currently pending in the EU: Google's practice of favoring its own services in search results, to the detriment of its competitors. Google has faced other numerous allegations regarding its business practices over the past several years internationally. In December an Italian court overturned [JURIST report] a conviction against Google executives for privacy violations. In November a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a $22.5 million fine against Google for privacy misrepresentations. In February of last year a federal judge dismissed [JURIST report] a challenge to Google's privacy changes by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website]. Earlier that month, a French court ruled [JURIST report] that Google Maps was practicing unfair competition.

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