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Europe's War on the Internet
EU Levies €2.4B fine on Google

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.

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  • ——————————

    Google plays dirty where ever it is, so let them get fined and exposed for what they do….

    • D4x

      Yesterday, Google changed the display of news.google. I just want to use a word I try not to use: I HATE the new news.google display, which was my main source for scanning for real news.

      Not like a human can actually complain to a human at google. Fortunately, the google search for news is still readable…

      What a strange world we have to adapt to…

      See you later 🙂

      • Andrew Allison

        We don’t HAVE to adapt to it, we just choose to for the sake of convenience. Google news has become much less interesting since it became dominated by NYT and WaPo. It may be that we should fear the info oligarchy more than the loonies on the left, or am I repeating myself [grin]

        • D4x

          The “info oligarchy” is a diversion, a temporary vacation for the “superintelligent pan-dimensional mice who ordered construction of the Earth to discover the Question to the Ultimate Answer of Life, the Universe, and Everything”.

          Apologies to Douglas Adams, but, his mouse experiment has always made the most sense to me, especially once I realized the answer to the Question that is not actually a question, “42” was code for Jackie Robinson.

          Don’t Panic is still the best advice, ever…

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_races_and_species_in_The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy#Mice

          • Andrew Allison

            I hope that you are correct.

      • ——————————

        I don’t trust Google. They tweak their algorithms to show left leaning news, subjects, etc. It’s like they are trying to control the world by controlling the message.
        Would love to see cyber terrorism take them down for a while….

        I have been adapting to a strange world since I was born.

        • D4x

          Too many homo sapiens, not enough dolphins…that is why the world is so strange.
          That tweaking is how I recognize the fake news. Spring 2016: you could scan the headers & ledes, and see who was using DNC talking points. Perhaps that is why news google changed their display format.

          • ——————————

            Yes…So long, so long, so long, so long
            So long, so long and thanks for all the fish!….

          • f1b0nacc1

            Of course this begs the question of who are the Vogons?

          • D4x

            Tough call: Persians if they were Chinese, after an encounter with Turks who thought they were German, after colluding with Russians… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogon

            There is Hamas…

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps we should have yet another Earth built….send out three colony ships….

            What could go wrong?

          • D4x

            Time to let the mice and dolphins have a go, without an exercise in nation-building that includes homo sapiens. It’s a proven fact that the dolphins are tired of protests about climate change.

            This is my brain after reading “Russia, the Last Colonial Empire” here, immediately after reading “Is Israel Catching Up Too Late to a Major Strategic Threat from Iran?”
            http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/238846/israel-strategic-threat-from-iran/?print=1

            🙂

  • Unelected Leader

    Google is a multinational tech giant. It’s not American, British, or Nigerian. It is just global. Made €22 billion across Europe and the Middle East last year, but funneled it all to Ireland and basically fabricated administrative costs (really just royalties paid to Google subsidiaries) and only paid €47 million in tax. It has had plenty of trouble and been fined ten million here and thirty million there.

    • KremlinKryptonite

      Indeed. Google has its own interests, and they aren’t American. They would have to be owned by some huge American SOE for the claim that its American to even be taken somewhat seriously.
      Always knew their interests were global. That’s one thing. But the search manipulation during the last election really sealed the deal for me.

    • Andrew Allison

      All true, but the EU is not arguing tax issues in this case. TAI is correct that the EU is targeting US tech firms that dominate markets in Europe.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        I think the point is that they have a history of trouble and that Google operates in the gray if not just barely on the up and up.

        • Andrew Allison

          With respect, I beg to differ. The EU has been pursuing a two-pronged attack, a legitimate one wrt taxes, and an illegitimate one (the subject of the post) which is solely intended to hamstring companies with European companies can’t compete.

          • TPAJAX

            Are you jokin’ man? Ireland has promised to change theirs by 2020. They’ve also promised to grandfather in Google and some other huge multinationals so they can continue to take advantage.

          • Andrew Allison

            No I’m not joking. The tax issue and the anti-competitive issue are quite different. President Trump could theoretically solve the tax issue with an Executive Order taxing the revenues of US multinationals (at a lower rate than at present), regardless of where received. He could also slap a tariff on imports from the EU and/or file an unfair trade practices complaint with the WTC. The EU has become used to dealing with a eunuch, but there’re now a pair of balls in the White House.

          • HA! That would be smart trade policy. That’s called nasty and bad and protectionist by dummy Americans and their smart rich overlords. We already bribed Trump with the trademark settlements. Trump and Ivanka have China factories!

          • TPAJAX

            I’m scared that you could be right. God I hope not.

          • Of course I’m right! Trump is the president for six weeks and all of a sudden his trademarks we’re settled in his favor. Trump has been president for several months now and chose not to call China a currency manipulator when we are! Because we are smart! And there are no tariffs or anything like that happening.

      • PierrePendre

        The EU targets US tech corporations, the US targets EU banks. What goes round etc.

        • Andrew Allison

          I agree that anticompetitive activity is widespread, but how does the US target EU banks? It appears to me that, especially in Italy, EU banks are self-destructing under a mountain of NPLs.

  • FriendlyGoat

    I put likes on the first two comments here (which were generally against Google’s position) because an over-arching topic is whether anyone can or will even attempt to globally place “limits” on questionable actions by MNCs. Whether Google’s particular actions justify the size of these attempted fines is not the point. Whether Europe failed to grow its own Google is not the point. The point is whether people of the world are powerless against invasion by the machinations of MNCs. It’s a really important concept for everyone, including us, in the age of the worship of deregulation in America.

    Some people were against TPP and TTIP because they thought the MNCs were being given “too much” leeway. Others seemed to think business was not given enough leeway. The whole subject got derailed in the noise. Instead of debating nation against nation, we need to be debating peoples’ interests worldwide against artificial entities’ interests. It’s a big subject and will not go away during the remainder of history.

  • Fat_Man

    So here is the quandary for Trump: Do you defend Google with diplomatic actions because it is American, or do tell them that they are on their own because they are leading the “resistance”?

    • Andrew Allison

      Not a hard decision when viewed in the context of first they came for Microsoft, then they came for Google . . . .

      • Fat_Man

        It was Apple, I think, but the problem is the same. Are they more of asset or a pita?

        • Andrew Allison

          It’s late in the day, and I’ve had my daily limit of G&T, but I’m pretty sure that Apple was a tax-based attack.

          • Fat_Man

            Tax, Anti-Trust what difference does it make. The EU socked it to them because they were from out of town.

            The question is does Trump use the power of the United States to defend them from the Eunicks. In theory he ought to because they are American ciotizens and their prosperity is in the national interest.

            OTOH, The tech companies have signed up for The #Resistance. They are promoting open borders so they can import coders from Asia to work at substandard wages. Why should trump help them. Shouldn’t he make them kiss the ring and beg his pardon?

            If California wants to give the middle finger to the SIX.HIRBS in fly-over country, may they should trade their environmental policy to the EUnicks for concessions to the tech companies.

  • johngbarker

    I wonder how many of those “highly educated young” people are trying to emigrate to the U.S. and if they have a reasonable chance of getting in.

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