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Is Google Really Anti-Competitive?

Google vs EU
google vs eu

EU Lawmakers Told to Act Decisively on All Concerns

The world’s premier search engine is coming under increasing fire in Europe as lawmakers are seeking to break up Google’s virtual monopoly on the internet. European legislators are wary of Google’s 90% market share across many European countries and they’re eager to impose punitive measures on Google to cut it down to size. Presently, there are all sorts of maladies plaguing Google in Europe, including a four-year antitrust investigation into discrimination against rivals, internet copyright levies and allegations of abusive practices, among others. The list is long and Google executives are starting to feel the heat. On November 27 the European Parliament voted to separate Google’s commercial services from its search engine. But for now, this mandate is nothing more than a symbolic measure and only the European Commission has the authority to enforce this.

How is Google Reacting to European Pressure?

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EU pressuring Google
EU pressuring Google

For now, it’s apparent that Google is playing its cards close to its chest. In fact, Google has less to worry about vis-à-vis European lawmakers since the Assembly has limited powers when it comes to issues like competition among companies. Recently, the European Parliament made a play on limiting bankers’ bonuses and they were successful. Now their attention has shifted to breaking up Google’s dominant market share in Europe. This was bolstered when Google’s rivals admitted that concessions from Google on the issue of curbing self-promotion would not solve any competition issues. European Parliament politicians seem hell-bent on moving forward with legislation that will force a break-up of Google Inc. It’s unclear at this time whether such a measure is even possible. Some leading academics have called these European initiatives nothing more than ‘antitrust populism’ and the Assembly which meets in France, Brussels and Strasbourg has nothing more than consulting power on EU legislation. But the bigger headache for Google – perhaps even a migraine – is the issue of a recent EU ruling on ‘A Right to Be Forgotten.’

Privacy Is a Big Issue in Europe, but Is Google Playing Ball?

Besides for Google’s cyberspace monopoly, there is another issue that Europeans seem to take a whole lot more seriously than Americans: online privacy. For Europeans it’s a no-brainer: all internet search results should be erased all over the world, not only in Europe. This has come to be known as a person’s ‘right to be forgotten.’ Simply put, implementing this practice would mean that people would have a right to have certain types of information removed from search engines if it has been deemed irrelevant or inadequate. The problem is that Google has only been removing results from its European search engines, not from Google.com, and lawmakers would like the latter to be included in the data cleanse. However, US lawmakers are against breaking up Google: 13 US Congressmen have sent letters to the European Parliament stating that its resolution would be detrimental to innovation and investment in US-based internet companies.

Will Google Break Up Next Year?

In response to these requests, Google executives announced that they would study the guidelines carefully. If Google continues to straddle the line – allowing results to appear on the .com site while scrubbing results from its EU sites, it will meet resistance from lawmakers. This issue has now deeply divided people on both sides of the fence, free speech advocates and privacy advocates, with no happy medium in sight. It is clear that Google is going to come under increasing scrutiny in the US and across Europe as these issues gain further media attention. The financial implications of splitting Google up into distinct companies certainly won’t have a similar effect to the HP split into two distinct companies. In this game of chess, Google is down 1 – 0, but anything is possible going forward.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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William R. Feins , freelance journalist from London, UK; he received his B.A. degree in Economics and his Masters in Sociology. William has always been interested in the mechanics of business and the inspiration of original thinkers, and firmly believes that the former can’t succeed without the latter. In his spare time, he enjoys the ridiculous spectacle of watching table tennis on a big screen (preferably at a pub) and reading weighty tomes about World War II.


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