The Surprisingly Optimistic Reason Why Europe Is Battling Google
Margrethe Vestager respects Google. She's also, in her capacity as competition commissionerfor the European Union, spearheaded a major investigation into the company's business practices. Earlier this year, her efforts resulted in antitrust chargesagainst the search giant.
One might call that ironic.
"Everyone would congratulate Google when it comes to their success," Vestager told The Huffington Post in an interview Thursday. "But everyone would expect them to play by the book."
Vestager made plain her hope that European citizens might be afforded the same capacity to innovate that's allowed Google to evolve into one of the most powerful multinational tech corporations on the planet.
"What we're aiming for has nothing to do with Google as such -- it has to do with the market allowing innovation," Vestager told HuffPost.
It's hard to argue with the sentiment. Vestager describes her vision of a changing world, one that has the capacity to be transformed, just as Google itself morphed our global community when it rose to prominence. In a sense, her viewpoint is an optimistic one: You don't know what's around the corner, so let the little guys have a chance, too.
"[We should] make sure that you cannot predict the future," Vestager told HuffPost.
She described what that means: The law should allow for "something new, better, more affordable -- something that can better lives."
What we're aiming for has nothing to do with Google as such -- it has to do with the market allowing innovation Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner
It practically goes without saying that Googlepossesses a unique power in our increasingly connected world. The company is an integral part of how many people access information. Its search engine isby far the most popular on the planet, and its email service is actively used by 900 million people.
The antitrust allegations hinge on one very important concept:Google isthego-to source for information, but it's also a business that generates billions of dollars every year. (Its total revenue was $66 billionin 2014 alone.) So, can it abuse its ability to generate search results by surfacing its ownproducts first?That's the thrust of the EU's case.
Google, unsurprisingly, has called the allegations "wrong as a matter of fact, law and economics."
For what it's worth, theFederal Trade Commission of the United States basically agrees. It concluded in 2013that Google did not violate antitrust or anti-competition rules in its web search service.
If Google is found to be engaged in anti-competitive practices in Europe, the ruling could result inbillions of dollars in fines, as well as changes to the company's business practices.