News Corp, Google War of Words Reignites

Rupert Murdoch - P 2014
AP Images/Invision

Rupert Murdoch - P 2014

The Internet giant? references a famous Sun headline mentioning a hamster

News Corp, led by chairman Rupert Murdoch, and Google have engaged in a renewed war of words over the Internet giant's market power and role in piracy.

The exchange comes amid ongoing antitrust settlement talks between Google and the European Commission and follows a 2012 verbal showdown between Murdoch and the Web search powerhouse.

The European Commission has been looking at the power Google has in search and pushed Google to offer adjustments to its proposed settlement ‎after complainants submitted additional arguments, "some of which should be taken in consideration,” ‎according to the EC.

Under the proposed agreement, announced in February, competitors would get more equal status in the results displayed by Google when users submit searches. Critics have said Google gives its own services, such as YouTube, more visibility in search results. Google chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier this year that it was not true "that we are promoting our own products at the expense of the competition.”

The EC has also expressed concern about any copying of content from rivals and the effects of Google's market dominance on advertising.

In a statement late Wednesday, News Corp said its CEO Robert Thomson had last week sent a letter to European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia. It called Google "a platform for piracy" and argued the company was "willing to exploit its dominant market position to stifle competition" and allowed "the spread of malicious networks."

News Corp, which just opened a new U.K. headquarters in London, said Thomson also opposed the proposed five-year term of the settlement, noting that “five years is an eternity in Internet time.”

He added: "The Internet should be a canvas for freedom of expression and for high-quality content of enduring value. Undermining the basic business model of professional content creators will lead to a less informed, more vexatious level of dialog in our society."‎

Google on Thursday responded with this statement: "Phew what a scorcher! Murdoch accuses Google of eating his hamster."

That was a reference to one of the most famous headlines in The Sun, the U.K. tabloid owned by News Corp. The March 1986 headline read: "Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster. Comic put a live pet in sandwich, says beauty."

The story claimed the comedian and singer returned to a friend's house in the early morning hours after a performance at a Manchester nightclub. It said his friend's girlfriend didn't want to make him a sandwich, so he put her hamster between two slices of bread.

Twitter: @georgszalai