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21 November 2014

Google break-up plan emerges from Brussels

Date: Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:59:04 +0100
From: nettime's_roving_reporter <nettime[at]>
To: nettime-l[at]
Subject: <nettime> FT: Google break-up plan emerges from Brussels

November 21, 2014 6:23 pm

Google break-up plan emerges from Brussels

     Henry Mance, Alex Barker and Murad Ahmed

The European parliament is poised to call for a break-up of
Google, in one of the most brazen assaults so far on the
technology group's power.

The gambit increases the political pressure on the European
Commission, the EU's executive arm, to take a tougher line on
Google, either in its antitrust investigation into the company or
through the introduction of laws to curb its reach.

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A draft motion seen by the Financial Times says that "unbundling
[of] search engines from other commercial services" should be
considered as a potential solution to Google's dominance. It has
the backing of the parliament's two main political blocs, the
European People's Party and the Socialists.

A vote to effectively single out a big US company for censure is
extremely rare in the European parliament and is in part a
reflection of how Germany's politicians have turned against
Google this year.

German centre-right and centre-left politicians are the dominant
force in the legislature and German corporate champions, from
media groups to telecoms, are among the most vocal of Google's

Since his nomination to be the EU's digital commissioner,
Germany's Günther Oettinger has suggested hitting Google with a
levy for displaying copyright-protected material; has raised the
idea of forcing its search results to be neutral; and voiced
concerns about its provision of software for cars.

Google has become a lightning rod for European concerns over
Silicon Valley, with consumers, regulators and politicians
assailing the company over issues ranging from its commercial
dominance to its privacy policy. It has reluctantly accepted the
European Court of Justice's ruling on the right to be forgotten,
which requires it to consider requests not to index certain links
about people's past.

The European parliament has no formal power to split up
companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which
initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been
investigating concerns over Google's dominance of online search
for five years, with critics arguing that the company's rankings
favour its own services, hitting its rivals' profits.

"Unbundling cannot be excluded," said Andreas Schwab, a German
MEP who is one of the motion's backers.

Margrethe Vestager, the incoming European competition
commissioner, has indicated that she will listen to Google and
various complainants before deciding on how to move forward with
the antitrust inquiry into the company.

Ramon Tremosa, a Spanish MEP who is sponsoring the motion, said
it was necessary to consider unbundling as a long-term solution,
because the commission could not "ask the secret of [Google's]

Google declined to comment. However, executives at the company
are understood to be furious at the political nature of the
motion and only became aware of the document in the past couple
of days, after an MEP contacted Google for advice on its meaning.

One technology industry source with knowledge of the motion also
called it a "politically-motivated campaign to do something that
is a regulatory matter". He added: "These guys are calling for
the break-up of Google. That is not in proportion to the degree
of concern articulated by the commission during its

The draft resolution's final text will be agreed early next week,
ahead of a vote, which is expected on Thursday.

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