Europe has hit Google with an unprecedented fine. CNN reports:
European Union regulators slapped Google with a record €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) antitrust fine on Tuesday, the latest broadside fired at big American tech companies doing business in the region.
The European Commission found that the U.S. tech giant denied “consumers a genuine choice” by using its search engine to unfairly steer them to its own shopping platform.[..]
“What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said Margrethe Vestager, the bloc’s top antitrust official. “It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”
[…] The Commission said that Google acted illegally by giving priority placement in search results to its own shopping service, while relegating results from rivals to areas where potential buyers were much less likely to click.
We have been following this case at TAI, as well as a slew of other EU “regulatory” assaults on U.S. tech companies, for some time. And as we’ve pointed out, these stem from the protectionist tendencies of the EU—which has no Googles of its own, and whose well-connected megacorporations are adept at leveraging government assistance on its behalf—as much as any transgressions the Silicon Valley giant may or may not have committed.
The most important thing about this story isn’t the size of the fine or the attempt to make the fight transatlantic. The most important thing is that it reveals an essential truth about the power dynamics of the 21st century: instead of developing its own tech giants, the EU is fighting to regulate the behavior of tech giants that sprang up in other parts of the world.
That this failure to launch took place at a time when Europe had a huge surplus population of unemployed but highly educated young people, and when interest rates were at historical lows highlights the deep cultural and policy problems that put the EU, despite the wealth and talent and skills concentrated in the union, at a structural disadvantage in the 21st century.