Google cries foul after EU unveils new laws challenging ‘gatekeeping’ supremacy of tech giants

US firm Google has complained that proposed new EU laws aimed at curbing tech giants’ dominance target only a “handful of companies,” the search provider included. The way Europe sees it, that’s the point.

“We will carefully study the proposals made by the European Commission over the next few days. However, we are concerned that they seem to specifically target a handful of companies,” Google’s head of government affairs and public policy, Karen Bhatia, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The proposals troubling Google were unveiled by the European Commission earlier on Tuesday. Two laws, one concerning content and the other market behavior, could dramatically curb the power of Google and fellow Silicon Valley giants such as Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Facebook, and more.

The first law, the Digital Services Act (DSA), would require tech companies with more than 45 million EU users to flag and remove illegal content, reveal how their algorithms suppress and boost content, undergo independent audits, and allow researchers access to “key data” for their platforms. Failure to do so could see these companies fined up to six percent of their annual revenue. 

In Google’s case, six percent of annual revenue would amount to nearly $10 billion.

The second law, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), is similar to antitrust legislation which has been mulled over by lawmakers on bothsides of the aisle in the US, as a potential solution to the tech titans’ dominance of the online sphere. The DMA would designate the most economically influential and entrenched tech firms as “gatekeepers,” and subject them to a host of new requirements.

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These “gatekeepers” would be forced to allow competitors to use their platforms, and allow their business customers to access other data stored by the tech companies. Firms like Google would be forbidden from boosting their own products and services more favorably in search rankings, banned from preventing customers from linking up to businesses outside their platforms, and forced to allow users to uninstall any pre-installed software or apps.

The European Commission will also be able to later change the definition of “gatekeeper”, and come up with “remedies” for those who break the proposed rules. At present, the DMA allows the Commission to fine these firms up to 10 percent of their global turnover for violations – $16 billion dollars, in Google’s case.

Furthermore, repeat violations could see harsher “structural remedies,” potentially even up to companies being forced to sell all or part of their businesses.

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The two laws will not be approved for some time yet, and the EU’s 27 members may find them hard to agree on in their present form. Ireland, for example, is home to the European headquarters of Apple, Facebook and Google, and has apparently been loath to punish these companies. Regulators there only doled out the EU’s first GDPR-related penalty this week, fining Twitter €450,000 ($547,000) for failing to provide a timely report about a data breach that made some private tweets public. Irish authorities initially wanted to issue a lighter fine, but relented following arguments from their German, Austrian and Italian counterparts.

The tech industry is also certain to lobby hard against the new laws, with Google reportedly planning to turn its “allies” in academia against the legislation, and enlist US lawmakers to argue its case to Europe.

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