Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Vox Popoli: Bringing Big Tech to heel

The European nations are tired of Big Tech thinking it can ignore their laws and is going to put an end to their incessant shenanigans:

EU Commission decided to put the foot down, and show Big Tech who runs the show. In a proposal of new rules for digital platforms that are meant to make Europe fit for the Digital Age, the European Commission proposed several Acts whose intended purpose is to better protect consumers and their fundamental rights online, as well as lead to fairer and more open digital market for everyone. In the name of European values. Nobody know what those are, but they do always sound nice.

Concretely, the Digital Markets Act will:

Apply only to major providers of the core platform services most prone to unfair practices, such as search engines, social networks or online intermediation services, which meet the objective legislative criteria to be designated as gatekeepers;

Define quantitative thresholds as a basis to identify presumed gatekeepers. The Commission will also have powers to designate companies as gatekeepers following a market investigation;

Prohibit a number of practices which are clearly unfair, such as blocking users from un-installing any pre-installed software or apps;

Require gatekeepers to proactively put in place certain measures, such as targeted measures allowing the software of third parties to properly function and interoperate with their own services;

Impose sanctions for non-compliance, which could include fines of up to 10% of the gatekeeper's worldwide turnover, to ensure the effectiveness of the new rules. For recurrent infringers, these sanctions may also involve the obligation to take structural measures, potentially extending to divestiture of certain businesses, where no other equally effective alternative measure is available to ensure compliance;

Allow the Commission to carry out targeted market investigations to assess whether new gatekeeper practices and services need to be added to these rules, in order to ensure that the new gatekeeper rules keep up with the fast pace of digital markets.

The devil, as always, is in the details, but the details actually look fairly smart and effective. Could they be abused? Certainly. Will they be abused at some point? Most likely. Will Big Tech do everything it can to escape being held accountable? Absolutely.

But as much as I dislike and distrust the EU, I dislike and distrust Big Tech even more. I've never been treated unfairly or unjustly by any European government, whereas I can count the number of US-based Big Tech companies that haven't singled me out for some form of harassment or another on one hand.