But you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?
It’s the little differences. A lotta the same shit we got here, they got there, but there they’re a little different.
In Paris, you can buy a beer at McDonald’s. Also, you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
No, they got the metric system there, they wouldn’t know what the fuck a Quarter Pounder is.
Pulp Fiction, by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary
Google is in the middle of a knock-down drag out fight with the European Commission’s antitrust authority over a very simple issue: Google has nearly 100% market share in Europe over search (including video search through its YouTube platform), much, much higher than Google’s US market share. Google abuses its dominance to favor its own products over its competitors–just as Senators Lee and Franken suspected when Eric Schmidt testified before the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee.
The European Commission has conducted a multi-year investigation into Google that was left unresolved when the head of the antitrust agency in the EC served out his term and was replaced. For four years, Google failed–through its usual smugness and arrogance–to settle the case. Now it looks like the new commissioner might sue rather than settle, and that has Google well freaked out.
The potential downside could be a fine of tens of billions of dollars. And that’s a lot of money, even for a company like Google that paid a $500,000,000 fine for promoting the sale of illegal drugs like it was chump change.
Just as the investigation is about to start anew with the recently appointed antitrust commissioner, the European Parliament spoke up and decided to make its views known in a non-binding resolution addressing the issues. Why? The New York Times reports that:
European fears of American technology giants have been stoked in the last 18 months by the revelations of Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about American intelligence agencies’ spying activities and perceived easy access to the world’s tech infrastructure. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany publicly complained when it was discovered last year that her cellphone had most likely been tapped by American intelligence.
In one sense, Thursday’s vote [on the resolution] amounts to little more than political posturing because the Parliament has no formal power over antitrust policy in the 28 countries of the European Union. That power rests with the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. Yet the vote could raise pressure on [the new antitrust commissioner] to speed a decision on whether to bring formal antitrust charges against Google in an investigation that began in 2010.
The European Parliament, you see, is considering applying the competition law of the European Union to…Google. And Google doesn’t like that. The take away from Google’s “ice in winter” settlement talks with the EC could lead one to think that Google seems to think that American corporations should be able to operate wherever they want and not answer to local laws.
Or, to paraphrase Cicero, civis Americanus sum. And that attitude always goes over so well in Europe.
But of course the only American corporation that is the subject of a protracted antitrust investigation in Europe is…wait for it…Google. So it’s really more like civis Google sum. Which also pretty much summarizes how Google feels about the nation state in general; as the Wall Street Journal has noted, the next war is the Silicon Valley tech giants against national sovereignty. However overblown that may sound, it is true and increasingly obvious.
It’s not that Google necessarily wants American law to apply, Google wants to make up the rules. (More evidence of this arrogance is the Safari Users Against Secret Tracking case that Google lost in the UK and is now appealing in which Google wants to be able to force UK resident users to sue Google in the U.S. only–Google like the nation state just fine when it comes to screwing their users.)
One of Google’s principal lobbyists had this to say about the MEPs resolution according to CNET:
“The increased politicization of the Google competition investigation is deeply troubling,” CCIA Chief Executive Ed Black said earlier this week of the parliament’s move….[T]he European Parliament’s action is counterproductive, Black said. “It potentially undermines the legitimacy of competition law if it is seen merely as another tool to be manipulated by special pleading and used for protectionist and political ends.”
So if you’re worried about the issue being politicized by elected representatives, the really smart thing to do is have the U.S. Congress threaten the European Parliament.
Members of the U.S. Congress signed this letter to members of the European Parliament. The Members were apparently motivated by a lobbying blitz from Google (although the name “Google” doesn’t appear in the letter).
However, I would bet that the Members who signed the letter had not all read the motion for a nonbinding resolution from the European Parliament as it covers a few different issues (and passed by a 3:1 margin). No, the Members were probably relying on staff, who relied on Google’s lobbyists. This is a good way to end up with egg on your face.
Because when you compare what the resolution actually said to what the Members’ letter said it said, you will recognize in the lobbyists’ words so mistakenly relied on by our Congress that certain combination of threat, Newspeak and tofu economics that is the hallmark of Google.
And here’s a hot tip: nobody believes the U.S. is going to get into a trade war with Europe over Google getting carved up or much of anything else. Could that be why the MEPs ignored the Google letter and voted 3:1 in favor of the resolution? Now not only is the letter Theodore Roosevelt-style jingoism, it’s emasculated Theodore Roosevelt-style jingoism that was entirely predictable. Bully! Let’s make ’em squeal!
Here’s the actual motion for resolution, see if you think it really is so overbearing and burdensome when read in its entirety and in context. And then ask yourself if the letter that the Members sent to the MEPs sounds like…well, sounds like a Yank acting like a tanked up cowboy reciting Ezekiel 25:17.
1. Calls on the Member States and the Commission, through sustained efforts of implementation of existing rules and enforcement of these rules, as part of an overarching strategy, to address all existing barriers that are hindering the development of the digital single market; believes that these efforts need to be at the heart of the EU’s efforts to generate economic growth and employment and strengthen its competitiveness and resilience within the global economy;
2. Stresses that any legislative proposal related to the digital single market must comply with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, so that rights enshrined therein are fully protected in the digital domain;
3. Stresses the need to tackle and combat the digital divide in order to fully grasp the potential of the digital single market and to guarantee the inclusion of all citizens, regardless of their income, social situation, geographical location, health or age, in society in the digital era;
4. Calls on the Commission to ensure the swift implementation of the single market for services and to ensure the implementation and enforcement of rules such as the Consumer Rights Directive, alternative dispute resolution and online dispute resolution, while ensuring the reduction of administrative burdens;
5. Calls for the swift adoption of the new modernised Data Protection Package in order to provide an appropriate balance between a high level of protection of personal data, user safety and control over one’s personal data and a stable, predictable legislative environment in which businesses can flourish in an enhanced single market for the benefit of end-users, a level playing field fostering investment, and an environment contributing to the attractiveness of the EU as a destination for businesses; calls on the Commission and the Member States to allocate the necessary resources to fight cybercrime by means of legislative measures and law enforcement cooperation, at both national and EU level;
6. Stresses the need to ensure a level playing field for companies operating in the digital single market in order for them to be able to compete; calls, therefore, on the Commission to properly enforce EU competition rules in order to prevent excessive market concentration and abuse of dominant position and to monitor competition with regard to bundled content and services;
7. Notes that a level playing field for companies in the digital single market must be ensured in order to guarantee a vibrant digital economy in the EU; stresses that a thorough enforcement of EU competition rules in the digital single market will be determinant for the growth of the market, consumer access and choice and competitiveness in the long term;
8. Urges the Council to make swift progress and open negotiations with Parliament on the proposal for a regulation laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent, as this would, concretely, put an end to roaming charges inside the EU, provide more legal certainty as regards net neutrality, and improve consumer protection inside the digital single market; believes that this regulation could constitute a crucial step towards realising a single European mobile market;
9. Stresses that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, irrespective of its sender, receiver, type, content, device, service or application;
10. Notes that the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market, given the potential development of search engines into gatekeepers and the possibility they have of commercialising secondary exploitation of information obtained; calls, therefore, on the Commission to enforce EU competition rules decisively, based on input from all relevant stakeholders and taking into account the entire structure of the digital single market in order to ensure remedies that truly benefit consumers, internet users and online businesses; calls, furthermore, on the Commission to consider proposals aimed at unbundling search engines from other commercial services as one potential long-term means of achieving the aforementioned aims;
11. Stresses that, when using search engines, the search process and results should be unbiased in order to keep internet searches non-discriminatory, to ensure more competition and choice for users and consumers and to maintain the diversity of sources of information; notes, therefore, that indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent, and that, for interlinked services, search engines must guarantee full transparency when showing search results; calls on the Commission to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by search engine operators;
12. Welcomes the announcement of further investigations by the Commission into search engine practices and the digital market in general;
13. Calls on the Commission to come up with the long overdue copyright reform, in particular with regard to measures which would enhance the potential of the digital single market, particularly concerning access to content, dissemination of knowledge and viable models for cross-border services; considers, in this connection, that the review of Directive 2001/29/EC is fundamental for the future reform, which should take into account new technologies and consumer and user behaviour;
14. Stresses the importance of ensuring an efficient and balanced framework for the protection of copyright and intellectual property rights, geared to the reality of the digital economy, while guaranteeing the interests of consumers and internet users;
15. Encourages swift adoption and enactment of international provisions facilitating access of disabled users to digital content and to printed works through their digitisation;
16. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to further develop and implement EU and national regulatory frameworks in order to allow an integrated and secure online and mobile payments market, while ensuring the protection of consumers and customer data; underlines, in this connection, the need for clear and predictable rules, set out in legislation;
17. Recalls that cloud computing can become a powerful instrument for the development of the digital single market, and can offer economic benefits, particularly for SMEs, by reducing IT infrastructure and other costs; highlights in this connection the fact that, if cloud services are provided only by a limited number of large providers, an increasing amount of information will be aggregated in the hands of those providers; recalls, furthermore, that cloud computing also entails risks for users, in particular as regards sensitive data; calls for proper implementation of the European strategy to guarantee competitive and secure cloud computing;
18. Calls on the Commission to take the lead in promoting international standards and specifications for cloud computing, which enable privacy-friendly, reliable, highly interoperable, secure and energy-efficient cloud services as an integral part of a future Union industrial policy; stresses that reliability, security and protection of data are needed for consumer confidence and competitiveness;
19. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.
So as you can see, the resolution itself covers a variety of topics, including the sainted net neutrality. But what Google wanted the Congress to hear was that the European Parliament wants to break up Google–something the resolution simply does not say.
But a handful of Members still dutifully fired off the letter above. Because God forbid that the U.S. Government should take too close a look at what Google is up to, especially given Google’s massive lobbying spend, influence peddling and many dodgy super PACs.
I’m not surprised to see Rep. Jared Polis signing up to the letter, given his own threatening letter that successfully protected Google from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission–having been on a panel with Mr. Polis and watched him reading from talking points printed from the website of Google Shill-Lister the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Fellow letter writer Rep. Darrell Issa wrote his own threatening letter to the FTC that pretty clearly was about the FTC’s investigation of Google, but had the good taste not to actually mention Google by name, an accomplishment he shares with the EU resolution.
As Valleywag reported, “These Letters [to the EU Parliament] Reveal Which Congressmen Google Has In Its Pocket“. We wouldn’t go quite that far, as that’s about as simplistic as CNET reporter and champion of democracy Molly Wood’s suggestion to Google that it defeat SOPA by buying Congressmen. And as California political operative Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh once said, money is the mother’s milk of politics. Given the untold millions that Google spends on its ideological agenda alongside other tech billionaires, it’s not surprising that they can produce Congressmen to sign threatening letters on short notice.
There’s no denying the fact that Google’s Matt Cutts figures large in the Lessig Super PAC alongside a multitude of Silicon Valley fat cats starting with Sean Parker’s $500,000 donation. Lessig PAC spent tens of millions, largely to oppose conservative and centrist candidates. Here’s an example of what the Lessigites did to Chairman Fred Upton:
There’s no telling where these Valley Boy Super PACs may focus their attacks in the future, which of course is the point (and with one exception, a recent donor list showed the fat cats are all boys). It looks like some Members got the message loud and clear–evidently so loud and clear that it was more important to condemn MEPs to their faces without too terribly much concern about what the resolution at issue actually said. (Googler Matt Cutts took a leave of absence from Google a few weeks after his name appeared in the “Pastebin Whistleblower” AdSense Fraud posting and began figuring large in the Super PAC world shortly after that. Searchenginewatch recently reported that Cutts “leave of absence” is extended into 2015 confirmed by Cutts in his Twitter account. When was the last time you were able to take a multi-year “leave of absence” and pursue your employer’s political objectives?)
Remember that Google has over 90% of the search market in Europe and in some European countries it has over 95%. That would be similar to what would happen if the Google/Yahoo ad deal had gone through in the US–but, that’s right, the deal fell apart over antitrust issues.
Google’s flexing of its lobbying muscle will come as no surprise to anyone in the indie label world. Most recently, YouTube’s grotesquely high handed treatment of indie labels resulted in a complaint by IMPALA against Google at the European Commission. IMPALA is no stranger to big companies not wanting to experience rebalancing of their assets after moves that would create unacceptable levels of concentration.
Remember that over the last few years, Google has been investigated by the European Commission’s antitrust division and was given an unprecedented three opportunities to settle their case. Google launched what we’ve come to know as their typical charm offensive that they apparently thought was working. All that Google did, however, was strengthen the will of the smaller companies that the Silicon Valley behemoth wants to crush and also stiffen the resolve of Europeans against them.
Now that it looks like Google’s lobbying efforts in Europe have finally backfired publicly, the company may well be about to experience one of its greatest losses. So what does it do?
With a geopolitical analysis worthy of a Fresno mall rat, they decide to whip up the United States Congress on what are truly false charges if you read the MEPs resolution. This is not a case of Old Europe quashing innovation socialist-style. This is a case of Google’s unbridled arrogance being brought to heel.
If you ever wondered what it is like dealing with Google, this move with the Congress is very similar to what they do when a pesky music publisher affiliate of a major label gets a little too pushy. They call upstairs and issue their orders.
Except this time they ordered a Royale with Cheese.