As part of an investigation by the European Commission into the effect of data collection practices by Facebook and Google upon competition, news publishers have been sent detailed questionnaires regarding data sharing agreements with Google. In particular, the questionnaires seek details from publishers on ways in which the search engine behemoth uses data collected from their websites to track user activity, eg:
“Describe any agreements . . . based on which Google collects data from your company or is allowed to obtain data from users of your websites or apps”
The fear is essentially that Google could potentially be abusing its market dominance in terms of how it presents search results for news and how it runs its advertising services. One of the concerns seems to be that news organisations may be essentially ‘forced’ to share their data in order to retain their rankings.
Meanwhile the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is conducting its own study into online platforms and the digital advertising market in the UK. A response by the European Publishers Council (EPC) warned that:
“While digital advertising should have created new opportunities for news publishers, the reality is that a very large part of digital advertising revenues has been captured by online platforms and, in particular, Google and Facebook (which commentators have referred to as an online advertising duopoly). This means that despite the resources they devote to producing original content, news publishers only receive a small fraction of the online ad investment made by advertisers. ”
This investigation into competitive practices is part of a broader pattern of European governments and institutions attempting to regulate the international reach of Silicon Valley. We previously mentioned GAFA tax which will introduce a 3 per cent tax on digital services gross revenue made in France. Despite objections from the US administration and threats to retaliate with tariffs of up to 100% on imports of certain French products, Cédric O, the French junior minister for digital affairs, has confirmed that France will proceed with proposed tax.