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Google’s European headaches

May 25, 2021, 10:41 AM UTC

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.

David Meyer


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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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