Google, Facebook learn Europe is no regulatory Wild West

Google, Facebook learn Europe is no regulatory Wild West

By Luke Vargas   
Courtesy: European Commission
Courtesy: European Commission

A major antitrust ruling against Google shows E.U. regulators have the power to make life difficult for American tech firms as a trade war drags on.

UNITED NATIONS – American tech companies took a beating in Europe this week. The E.U. slapped Google with a $5 billion fine for illegally limiting competition by forcing manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and the web browser Chrome on Android phones.

The European Commission said Google can dominate markets like search, mobile operating systems or the sale of mobile apps — but it can’t force other companies to use its services. The timing of that decision could be a sign of Europe flexing its muscles as it braces for a trade fight with the United States.

“You could probably interpret this ruling as sort of a warning shot into the direction of Donald Trump. We can get into a trade war, but it’s not that we don’t have any weapons in our arsenal.”

Paul-Jasper Dittrich is a research fellow for Digital Europe at Berlin’s Jacques Delors Institut.

“The single market is sort of the largest country market in the world and the Commission obviously does have the power to go after the largest American online platform companies if it wants to.”

Facebook also learned this week that Europe isn’t like the regulatory Wild West of the United States, as the German government ordered the social media giant to remove Holocaust denial content in compliance with German law. CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously said such speech was “deeply offensive,” but it wasn’t Facebook’s job to remove it.

“That’s an issue with most American online platforms — that they try everything not to get under official government regulation, and instead apply what they call ‘self-regulation.’”

Given recent studies showing increasing anti-Semitic content online, perhaps it’s no surprise the German government isn’t okay letting Zuckerberg’s belief that most Holocaust deniers aren’t “intentionally” distorting history guide company policies.

“From a German perspective, since denying the Holocaust is illegal in Germany, it would sort of be a no-brainer that denying the Holocaust should also be illegal online.”

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