Europe’s Battle To Curb Large Tech
The US tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft – collectively known as GAFAM – have been accused of not paying enough taxes, stifling competition, stealing media content and threatening democracy by spreading fake news.
As a European Union court ruled on a € 2.4 billion ($ 2.8 billion) antitrust fine against Google on Wednesday, let’s see how the bloc has tried to regulate big tech.
The digital giants are regularly criticized for dominating the market by ousting competitors.
The EU has fined Google a total of 8.25 billion euros for abusing its dominant position on several of its products.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg will decide on Wednesday on Google’s challenge to a fine of 2.4 billion euros imposed by the EU Commission in 2017 for abusing its power over its competitors in online shopping.
Microsoft was fined € 561 million by the EU in 2013 for imposing its Internet Explorer search engine on Windows 7 users.
Amazon, Apple and Facebook are also the target of EU probes for possible violations of competition rules.
The EU has also announced plans to impose mammoth fines of up to 10 percent of their sales against tech companies that violate competition rules, which could even lead to their dissolution.
Germany, France, Italy and Spain scored a huge victory in June when the Group of Seven (G7) agreed on a minimum global corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent, aimed primarily at the tech giants.
For years they have paid little or no taxes through complex tax avoidance programs.
In one of its most notorious cases, the European Commission found in 2016 that Ireland was granting Apple “illegal tax breaks” and asking the company to pay Irish taxpayers € 13 billion plus interest.
After an EU court later ruled in Apple’s favor, the Commission turned to the European Court of Justice to appeal.
The following year, Amazon was asked to repay Luxembourg 250 million euros for similar abuses there.
Tech giants are regularly criticized for the way they collect and use personal information.
With its General Data Protection Regulation of 2018, which has now become an international reference, the EU has the requirement to contain them.
You must ask for consent when collecting personal data and are no longer allowed to use the data collected from various sources against your will to profile users.
In July, Amazon was fined € 746 million by the Luxembourg authorities for violating EU data protection rules.
After the Irish regular fined Twitter almost half a million euros, he launched an investigation against Facebook in April after the personal information of 530 million users was pirated.
France has also fined Google and Amazon a total of 135 million euros for violating computer cookie rules.
Social networks are often accused of failing to contain misinformation and hate speech.
The European Parliament and the Member States have agreed to force platforms to remove terrorist content within an hour.
EU rules now also prohibit the use of false information dissemination algorithms and hate speech suspected by some major platforms to increase advertising revenue.
GAFAM is accused by media companies of making money with journalistic content without sharing the income.
To address this, an EU law in 2019 created a form of copyright called “neighbor rights” that would allow outlets to claim compensation for the use of their content.
After initial resistance, Google signed content payment agreements with several French newspapers last year, a world first.
However, this did not prevent the company from being fined half a billion euros by the French competition authority in July for failing to negotiate “in good faith” with news organizations. Google has appealed.