Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.
Google is having a tough time with regulators in Europe again.
This morning, Germany’s federal antitrust regulator opened two major investigations into Google’s competitive practices. Back in January, Germany passed a new law allowing the Bundeskartellamt to pre-emptively tackle Big Tech transgressions, and the watchdog responded quickly with investigations against Facebook (in January) and Amazon (last week). Now it’s Google’s turn under the microscope.
Amusingly—though this is an important legal step—the antitrust regulator will now formally try to determine whether Google is “of paramount significance across markets.” I think we already know the answer to that one, and so does Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt, who said in a statement that “due to the large number of digital services offered by Google, such as the Google search engine, YouTube, Google Maps, the Android operating system or the Chrome browser, the company could be considered to be of paramount significance for competition across markets.”
Mundt’s office will also conduct an “in-depth analysis” of Google’s data-processing terms, to see “whether consumers wishing to use Google’s services have sufficient choice as to how Google will use their data.”
The end result of all this may be a preventative ban on Google giving preferential treatment to its own services (something that EU investigations have repeatedly shown Google to have done in the past) or blocking interoperability with rival services.
Don’t think of this as just a German thing. The law that the country introduced at the start of this year was pretty similar to the Digital Markets Act that the European Commission has proposed, which will probably take a couple years to become a reality. As that legislative process moves forward, many eyes will be trained on the German experience.
Meanwhile, looking further east, the Russian media watchdog/censor Roskomnadzor may be about to throttle Google’s traffic, due to its failure to remove prohibited content. Local reports yesterday said the agency had given Google 24 hours to comply with its demand by removing links to things like “extremist” websites (a classification that takes in everyone from opposition figures to actual terrorists).
Roskomnadzor has already told Russian mobile operators to throttle Twitter’s traffic in the country, so the threat is real. And Google seems to be gearing up for a fight: Yesterday it was reported that the company has sued the regulator for the first time, over Roskomnadzor’s demand for Google to nix links to YouTube videos that called for people to join anti-government protests. Fireworks loom.
More news below. And do also check out the latest edition of the Leadership Next podcast (Apple/Spotify) in which Alan and Ellen chat to Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman about the exchange’s proposal to have listed companies disclose their board diversity statistics—a move that won Friedman the #32 spot in Fortune‘s World’s Greatest Leaders list this year.
Amazon and MGM
Amazon's reported takeover of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio could be announced as soon as today. The MGM deal is apparently worth $9 billion. Fortune
A British study showed AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccines to be effective against the so-called Indian strain of COVID-19. Already-administered vaccinations should mean around a third of people in the U.K. are already protected against this new variant, according to the government. Fortune
Elite Indian police visited Twitter's offices in Delhi yesterday, after the company stuck a "manipulated media" label on a tweet from a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The offending tweet purported to show an opposition Congress party document that criticized the BJP's pandemic efforts; Congress said it was fake. Protocol
The EU is banning Belarusian airlines from flying over its territory, after the government of autocrat Alexander Lukashenko forced a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk, in order to arrest a government-critical blogger and his girlfriend. The Belarusians have claimed there was a Hamas bomb threat against the plane, but Hamas denies it and few believe it. BBC
AROUND THE WATER COOLER
Bitcoin's up again (kinda—it slipped again just as those words were typed). The latest move is down to Elon Musk again, this time because he talked to some miners about their greenification efforts. Bonus read: Crypto cycles seem to have patterns to them, with Bitcoin peaking as it achieves a milestone in institutional acceptance, then with alternative cryptocurrencies peaking days later. Fortune
An algorithm used by Chicago cops told them Robert McDaniel would be involved in a shooting in some way, so they visited his house to tell him he was being watched. The visit resulted in him being shot by people from his neighborhood who thought he was a snitch. As this piece puts it: "In McDaniel's view, the [algorithmically generated] heat list caused the harm its creators hoped to avoid: it predicted a shooting that wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t predicted the shooting." The Verge
Germany's lower house of parliament has passed legislation (which still needs the approval of the upper chamber) that will allow driverless vehicles to take to public roads by 2022. That's big news for autonomous taxi and delivery services. TechCrunch
Vaccinations alone will not get Americans through the pandemic, argues Dave Hickey, life sciences chief at med-tech firm BD, which does a lot of work in the field of diagnostics. In this piece for Fortune, Hickey says testing will remain critical "as vaccine hesitancy stands in the way of herd immunity; as new, more contagious variants continue to evolve and spread; and as we learn more about the long-term effectiveness of vaccines." Fortune
This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.
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