The Wall Street Journal reports that the European Union has proposed new legislation that would toughen its ability to regulate major technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google - though none of these companies are mentioned by name in the proposal.
The two bills under consideration focus on illegal content and anticompetitive behavior and would "empower regulators in some cases to levy fines of up to 6% or 10% of annual world-wide revenue, or break up big tech companies to stop certain competitive abuses."
The story goes on: "Together, the two strands of legislation amount to the biggest potential expansion of global tech regulation in years. They aim to update decades-old laws that have largely shielded tech companies from liability for their users’ activities. The measures would also create a new set of competition rules for a cadre of digital giants that have been accused of wielding their control of online marketplaces to entrench their own positions and snuff out competitors."
The Journal points out that the UK, which is leaving the EU, "is advancing similar legislation."
- KC's View:
The story makes the point that it could takes years to haggle over these proposals. One thing seems sure - there are a bunch of lobbyists who are going to have full employment for as long as the debate lasts.
It seems at least possible that some version of these proposals will be entertained by US lawmakers, many of whom seem to share the EU's hostility to big tech.
The kinds of fines being proposed here strike me as very steep - in some cases, they could wipe out a company's profit. But if nothing else, the EU is getting the tech giants' attention, and that's a good thing. It is part of what Tom Furphy and I discussed in today's Innovation Conversation, which I hope you'll watch. These are critical issues - not just for the tech sector, but for our cultural, social and political fabric.