A resolution has been passed in the European Parliament that calls on the European Commission and member states to consider forcing Google to split its search business from its other properties.
Google and the European Commission have been involved in an anti-trust case over the way the multinational operates its search business – which has a market share of around 90 per cent in many European countries – since 2010.
The resolution states that “the online search market is of particular importance in ensuring competitive conditions within the digital single market,” and welcomes a pledge by the Commission to further investigate the search giant.
Although the resolution is non-binding and the European Parliament does not have the authority to break up Google’s operations in the region, strong support for the resolution puts pressure on the European Commission to act on the concerns it raises.
Of particular concern for Member of the European Parliament (MEPs) is that Google uses its search dominance to sell its own services.
Online technology writer David Meyer writes that the European Parliament’s “original problem was that Google puts its own services very much front-and-center in its results.
“For example a search for a product might bring up a prominent box steering the user towards Google Product Search, or a search for a café will bring up a Google Maps box.”
This concern is outlined in the resolution, which asks the commission to “to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines,” and emphasises the importance of “non-discriminatory online search”.
The resolution argues that “indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent”.
MEPs also called on the Commission to consider “proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services”.
Interestingly the motion does not mention Google by name but, based on the anti-trust case and prior references, it makes clear that the search giant is the target of proposed new reform and regulation.
In a letter to several European commissioners after the passing of the resolution, the German government wrote that Google’s dominance could be pulled back through methods other than a break up of its search functions from its other businesses.
The letter suggested “the provision of discrimination-free access to all content, with effective controls regarding abuse…the introduction of a principle of ‘platform neutrality’, along with an efficacious implementation of same and the introduction of the structures required for this purpose.”
The letter also advanced the principles of recently passed German legislation, which bans Google from the use of “original content obtained from third-party websites without authorisation”.
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