December 3, 2014

The European Union Seeks to Break the Google Monopoly

By Lauren C.

While many people were huddled in their homes on Black Friday avoiding the last acceptable form of legalized chaos at the mall, the European Union decided to openly vote on breaking Google into smaller companies so that it would no longer be a dominant monopoly. This decision was not spontaneous but rather the latest example of the EU’s long, bitter, and questionable anti- Google campaign.

The European Union has a complicated history with Google, which can be traced back to a 2010 investigation by Joaquin Alumnia, the European Commission’s anti-trust chief. The European Commission (EC) is the regulatory authority for the European Union, and it can make decisions on whether or not to regulate certain industries. The lawsuit occurred because Alumnia wanted to know if Google’s dominance was so great that it required regulatory action. The EC’s three primary complaints were that Google linked to its own vertical search services like YouTube and Maps over rivals, Google copied content from other vertical search companies, and there were too many restrictions on other competitors who might be advertising on sites using Google ads.

After rumors that Parliament would vote to “unbundle” Google, which they cannot legally do by vote, the EU went forward with its decision to hold a symbolic vote on the measure. It stated, “The online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market. We believe in preventing any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines.” Both political parties in Parliament supported the measure, and it passed by a 384 to 174 vote. The members hope that the move will influence the EC, which has the power to decide on and implement new regulations for companies.

Many are wondering what is really at the bottom of the EU’s conflict with Google. According to one source, “As we noted last week when these deliberations were taking place, it’s not clear what the reasons are, other than that Google is big and American.” The Economist found the move baffling as well, and argued that, “Europe’s leaders should ask themselves why their continent has not produced a Google or a Facebook. Opening up EU’s digital service market would do more to create one than protecting local incumbents.” Techdirt argued that this is just a way for the EU to protect companies who refuse to innovate and compete with Google in a legitimate manner.

The European- based Right to be Forgotten Laws were perhaps well intentioned, but are proving to be cumbersome for Google and are more susceptible to other forms of corruption. Some might say that the European Union wants to regulate Google out of existence because it poses a threat to their own power. Many also believe that this is simply a way for the EU to determine what should or should not be in Google’s search results, which ironically conflicts with their own desire for unbiased, neutral search results. Though the outcomes of Google’s legislative vote are yet to be determined, it will be interesting to watch the continuing dramatic war between Parliament and the search engine king.

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