The EU fine on Google is a welcome attempt to check the power of the global internet companies
The breathtaking fine of €2.4bn that the European commission has imposed on Google for exploiting its virtual monopoly of search is shocking and welcome. It shows that there is at least one polity that is prepared to stand up to the giant tech companies and try to bring them under the rule of the law. The individual countries of Europe are not large enough: Denmark, which has just announced the rather gimmicky appointment of an “ambassador to Silicon Valley”, has a GDP only about two-thirds the size of Facebook’s business. But the EU is big enough and strong enough to act. Further judgments and no doubt further fines are expected in two other cases where Google is accused of steering the market towards its own advertising businesses rather than those of its competitors.
The technology of the mobile internet has been a huge blessing for the world. But where it is not in the hands of undemocratic governments, it is controlled today by multinational advertising companies, which is the business that makes both Google and Facebook their almost incredible profits. However benign their intentions, the sheer size and reach of these companies makes them dangerous. This judgment represents one of the few serious attempts to manage these monopolies. It’s a welcome start.