Date
11 December 2017
Google and other top internet players could be subject to tighter access in future European legislation after the largely non-binding vote to consider the break up of the world's largest search engine. Photo: Bloomberg
Google and other top internet players could be subject to tighter access in future European legislation after the largely non-binding vote to consider the break up of the world's largest search engine. Photo: Bloomberg

European lawmakers back Google break-up

European lawmakers have voted overwhelmingly to consider Google’s break-up after a week of high-stakes maneuvering over internet regulation on the continent.

The resolution is legally toothless but politically important as it signals future internet legislation that could lead to tighter access to platforms such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple’s iTunes.

The push is being led by Germany and France which are calling for “public consultation” on these digital heavyweights, the Financial Times reported Friday.

They argue that regulations and antitrust rules should be toughened to ensure “a level playing field” that allows European companies to compete.

A joint letter to the European Commission, signed by Germany’s Brigitte Zypries and France’s Axelle Lemaire, suggests “essential” digital platforms should potentially be brought under existing rules for telecoms markets, a standalone regulation or specially tailored antitrust rules.

“Essential platforms rely on closed and integrated ecosystems and constitute bottlenecks in certain markets,” according to the letter, referencing a legal doctrine that applies to natural monopolies such as utilities or transport hubs.

This came shortly after a big majority in the European parliament – 384 votes to 174, with 56 abstentions – backed a resolution calling for the commission to potentially consider unbundling of search engines if tough enforcement of antitrust rules proves inadequate, the report said.

It is rare for the parliament to effectively single out companies for intervention in a formal resolution and the vote has stirred outrage on Capitol Hill, prompting about a dozen US politicians to voice their objections and warn of the impact on EU-US trade.

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