Digital regulation: Silicon Valley fears EU projects

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An internal Google document reveals the battle plan of the technology juggernaut against European digital regulation projects. This leak reflects the fear of heavyweights in the sector of seeing their economic model called into question.

“Raise the opposition against (Thierry) Breton” the European Commissioner for the Internal Market and instigator of the draft EU legislation (DSA / DMA), presented on December 9, which intends to bring the digital giants in line: such was the avowed objective of a Google campaign, revealed by the French weekly Point.

The document, which details the lobbying strategy of the American group, was consulted by AFP.

The former boss of the technology group Atos, and former French Minister of the Economy, discussed it on the phone in mid-November with Google boss Sundar Pichai, who apologized to him, according to the commissioner’s entourage. .

“We are going to ensure that the EU can curb the unfair behavior of large systemic platforms, so that the Internet does not only benefit a handful of companies,” Thierry Breton told him, according to a report sent by his services.

Brussels does not hide its desire to promote the emergence of European competition against American leaders.

Praised a few years ago for their innovations, the tech giants are increasingly singled out, accused in a jumble of abuse of a dominant position, tax evasion, or threat to the media and democracy. ..

Priority of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the regulation of the digital sector must make it possible to put an end to the areas of lawlessness on the Internet by repressing hate speech and the sale of illegal products. It aims above all to impose on the largest players only new rules governing the use of data, the opacity of algorithms or their tendency to form conglomerates.

Beyond the anecdote between Mr. Pichai and Mr. Breton, Google’s lobbying plan reveals the desire to win the support of the United States and its allies in Europe, the leaders of the sector being all American. Google intends to take advantage of the two years of negotiations that lie ahead between the Commission, Member States and European Parliament to soften the final text.

Hen with golden eggs

“For the first time, we would have asymmetric regulations that would focus only on the big ones”, explains to AFP Alexandre de Streel, professor of law at the University of Namur and co-director of the think tank Center on Regulation in Europe ( Cerre). “We are going to put in rules to control their power”.

These groups fear that the European example will take hold in the rest of the world. “This would imply for them to change the way they work”, he says, for example if we force them to share data, to do more moderation of content on social networks, to introduce interoperability between their platforms …

So many measures that could increase their costs, reduce their revenues, give birth to competitors … and kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), one of the digital lobbies, is windward. “I hope we get out of the ‘big guys are bad’ type of debate because that won’t solve the problems. If all the obligations fall on the big ones, bad behavior will migrate towards the small ones ”, affirms its vice-president for Europe, Christian Borggreen.

Hyper profitable, the famous Gafam (for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) are among the most valued companies in the world.

Apple became the world’s largest capitalization this summer, at $ 2 trillion, about as much as all of the 40 largest French groups …

These groups innovate and create jobs. But Google or Facebook, are pinned for the lack of transparency of their targeted advertising. Amazon would abuse resellers using its platform. Apple and Microsoft would benefit from their dominant position in operating systems.

Will the EU be able to discipline them? M. de Streel is not sure, fearing the absence of an authority capable of enforcing rules which he nevertheless hopes to be “very firm”, but also excess of zeal: “We have such a tech bashing currently in Europe the danger is also to go too far in regulation ”at the risk of“ breaking everything ”.

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