Google launches massive lobbying campaign in Europe

As European lawmakers get down to fine-tuning the Digital Markets Act, Google is embarking on a massive lobbying campaign to try to bribe Members of Parliament. Obviously, the web giant fears for its business.

Google is a ” porter

Presented together with the Digital Services Act (DSA) at the end of 2020, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) aims to regulate in a much more stringent way what are called ” guardians Of the digital world. These are Internet access controllers, platforms so important that users almost have to go through them to navigate or conduct their activities on the web.

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With this new law, which should come into force at the start of 2023, big tech will be subject to strong regulation and will risk very significant fines in the event of breaches, which can amount to 10% of their turnover. With its search engine crushing everything in its path and its many related services, Google is logically considered a gatekeeper. The Redmond firm is particularly concerned that it will no longer be able to resort to the practice of self-referencing.

For Google, it consists of promoting its own services through Search, in the field of travel for example. As a reminder, the company was fined a hefty 2.42 billion euros in 2017 for promoting its own price comparison service over those of its rivals. A sanction recently confirmed by the Luxembourg Court, although Google intends to appeal again.

A computer open on the Google home page.

Google uses its search engine to promote its own products. Photograph: Firmbee.com / Unsplash

A lobbying campaign supposed to defend small businesses

What should be remembered from this case is above all that the firm has hardly made any change to its practices despite the fine, note Ars Technica. Feeling the tide with the confirmation of this sanction, the arrival of the DMA as well as a bill specifically targeting targeted advertising, Google has decided to launch a last-minute lobbying campaign in Europe.

Following the decision of the Luxembourg Court, Google CEO Sundar Pichai organized a virtual conference with Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s head of digital and competition, to discuss this case as well as technological regulations. future. Meanwhile, Kent Walker, head of international affairs at Alphabet, the parent company of Google, held similar meetings with major European regulators.

Dutch parliamentarian Kim van Sparrentak explains that in recent weeks, she has noticed an intensification of lobbying led by Google, which assures that the next regulations will have a negative impact on small businesses (like a little air of Facebook…). Thus, the politician assures that Google invited her to discuss her point of view, and invited her to join an event organized by the company on the benefits of digital marketing for small businesses. In addition, the trade association Connected Commerce Council, which counts among its partners Google and Amazon, sent a letter to the parliamentarian signed by small business owners in which they state: “ Please don’t make it harder for my business “.

Kim van Sparrentak is not the only member of the European Parliament to testify to the Mountain View offensives. Some have seen their Twitter feed swarmed with advertisements from tech advocacy groups on issues of interest to Google; a campaign against the proposed ban on targeted advertising, disseminated on the social network and in the specialized press, was, for example, carried out by IAB Europe.

I am targeted by an almost unrecognizable advertisement aimed at EU officials, which promotes false information and only refers to IAB studies », Testifies Alderik Oosthoek, political adviser to the European Parliament. These numerous lobbying attempts reflect the concern of Google, whose economic model is based in particular on the disadvantage of its competitors on Search.

Lobbying, a formidable weapon of GAFA

However, this is not an isolated case for the Mountain View firm. GAFAs are real lobbying machines, whether in their native country or outside. A study published in August 2021 showed that the technological giants had spent 97 million euros to put pressure on the European institutions since the beginning of 2020. According to the EU transparency register, Google has invested around 6 million euros in lobbying activities in 2020. The company has around eight in-house lobbyists in Brussels, not counting external lawyers and consultants.

In 2020, Sundar Pichai was also forced to apologize to Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, after he got hold of a plan to counter-attack Google against the DSA.

We believe that Europeans should be able to take advantage of the best services that Google can create. It is clear that some of the DMA and DSA proposals affect us directly and will have an impact on the way we innovate our products in Europe. We care about finding the right balance, and we know our users and customers are too. Like many others, we have engaged in an open and constructive manner with policy makers throughout the legislative process to assert our point of view. Google says.

The noose tightens on big tech

It is not only in Europe that the Mountain View firm is in the sights of the authorities. Under the influence of several complaints across the Atlantic, Google will notably have to face a very large lawsuit for anti-competitive practices. Once again, it is its search engine that is at the heart of the accusations made by US regulators.

More generally, we are witnessing a tightening of regulation against technological giants in the world. If the latter have long acted without real control, they must now answer for their actions. In this area, the EU is establishing itself as a true pioneer by imposing stricter measures than in other Western countries; DMA and DSA are just proof of this.

In the United States, the authorities have also decided to tighten the screws on their big tech with, for example, the appointment of Lina Khan as head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a federal agency whose mission is to ‘enforcement of consumer law and the control of anti-competitive business practices such as unfair monopolies. This fervent opponent of the technological giants is feared, to the point that Meta and Amazon have asked for her recusal.

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