It is a declaration of war primarily to the four internet giants Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple that took place in Brussels on Tuesday. The commission wants to break the overwhelming market power of US corporations. It wants to create market conditions that also offer smaller platforms an opportunity. If the big ones don’t stick to the planned rules, they face billions in fines.
We’re talking about six to ten percent of global sales. Citizens did not want “the business and political interests of a handful of companies to dictate our future,” said Commissioners Margrethe Vestager (competition) and Thierry Breton (internal market). You have now presented a legal framework for the digital economy in two legislative packages, which should apply equally in all EU countries.
The law on digital services and the law on digital markets together form the first major reorganization of the digital landscape in Europe since the E-Commerce Directive 20 years ago. The lobbying in advance was correspondingly large. The NGO Corporate Europe Observatory counted 158 lobbyist meetings from 103 companies and stakeholders in Brussels. The most eager was Google, followed by Microsoft and Facebook.
The platforms are to be made responsible more than before for illegal content such as hate speech, but also for potentially dangerous false information. “What is illegal offline is also illegal online,” Vestager said. Up to now, one was largely dependent on voluntary cooperation for checking and deleting. Market access is another lever. The Commission sees the very large platforms as “gatekeepers”, in other words the porters who have the key to market and profit. Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook are so dominant that they can determine the rights and obligations for their competitors. And it is precisely this dominance that is to be broken, and more competition to be made possible. Several practices by the Internet giants have long been a thorn in the side of the Commission. This includes the tendency to use data from third parties to optimize their own products. This also means that Google apps are preinstalled on Android phones. Such practices could be banned in the future.
Now the EU Parliament and the member states have to find their positions on the digital package. Felix Duffy from LobbyControl, a German NGO that keeps a watchful eye on lobbyists, sees the danger that these negotiations could be diluted because the tech giants tried to “put pressure on the nation states”. Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple have invested heavily, especially in Ireland, Sweden and Germany.
The EU Commission is planning this
- Digital Markets Act: aims only at the dominant internet giants, the “gatekeepers” (EU annual turnover of at least 6.5 billion euros; an exchange value of at least 65 billion euros; more than 45 million monthly end users in the EU).
- Gatekeeper must stop trading practices that are deemed “unfair”. If the Commission draft becomes law, corporations will no longer be able to prevent users from removing preinstalled software or apps. They also need to make sure that software works with third-party services.
- Punish: up to ten percent of global annual sales. In case of hardship, even breaking.
- Digital Services Act: Platforms need to control content more carefully and delete illegal or questionable content.
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