The last couple of months have been a bumpy ride for Google and its European counterparts in what appears to be an effort to reduce the influence and access of U.S Internet and Internet companies within European countries. Several countries have begun implementing new rules and regulations directed at search engines (especially Google) to protect the interest of citizens and users through censorship, fines and penalties.
Earlier this year the European government enforced the Right To Be Forgotten rule, which entitles European users the right to request information they deem untrue, invalid or no longer an accurate representation of who they are be removed from the search results. Now although there are evident individual privacy concerns that may be better met through the implementation of this rule, it’s important to consider other implications as well. Search engines are not necessarily a reflection of truthful stories or facts; rather they are accurate reflections of what is on the Internet. They serve up results based on relevance not proven fact. This new rule now employs search engines no longer carry true reflections of what is on the Internet as the results can be manipulated and removed within Europe to satisfy personal needs and interest.
In addition, in an on going matter (four years to be specific) and attempt to dismantle or at the very least weaken the search engine giant’s presence in Europe, regulators have been on Google’s tail over antitrust issues imposing a $6 billion dollar fine if the giant is found guilty of favouring its own services in search results over those of European competitors. Additionally, the nation is also considering another antitrust investigation pertaining to Android in that it is believed the operating system may be discriminating against apps not created within the Google network giving Google yet again the upper hand.
In late November the European parliament passed a non-binding resolution to break Google into multiple smaller companies feeling it had too much power and generated bias search results. This is to say the giant is considered a monopoly or dominance, which it may very well be, but note it is dominant due to user preference and not force. Google is more popular in Europe than it is in any other region of the world with a 90% market share. Although the dominance is evident, at any point with a few simple clicks and change of settings, users have the power to change their default or preferred browser. They just simply choose not to for which Google can only be found guilty of supplying exactly what its users are asking for and you can’t be mad at that.
In most recent news and possibly the most shocking, Spain has passed a new law that forces Google to pay news publishers royalties for the distribution of their headlines, stories and images as an example of copyright infringement. As per the Spanish Newspaper Publishers’ Association (AEDE), Google News will no longer be able to distribute stories and headlines in Spain without succumbing to the “Google Tax” in what is described as the Spanish effort to protect their citizens and companies property. All things considered, it comes as no surprise that on Thursday December 11, 2014 Google News said its goodbyes to Spain with the head of Google News Richard Gingras stating, “As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable”. It would appear that publishers have failed to realize that aggregators like Google News send them immense quantities of traffic ultimately resulting in more money in their pockets. Even more shocking is that upon the confirmation of this announcement the AEDE reached out to the government to force Google News to not only stay open and remain active but to also pay the Google Tax.
These trends seen in and across Europe are similar to those Google experienced in other regions after which the giant did the only logical and economical thing it could, it left. It’s not to say that saying goodbye to their huge audience in Europe would not be impactful but in the long run would be beneficial. Unlike other regions that previously met Google head on, Europe does not have an equivalent so the population would likely continue to prefer and use Google through alternate methods such as Google.com.
As the nit-picking continues and new European rules are thrown at Google from every angle, breaking up would seem like the only logical thing to do but a huge loss for both parties nonetheless. Whether either is prepared to admit it is a different story.