Google’s Alleged Campaign Against EU Lawmakers

The EU, through the European Commission (EC), plans to revise its legal framework for digital services by way of a new legislative package: the Digital Services Act (DSA). The announced goal of the DSA is to modernize its regulation of digital services, which has remained unchanged since its adoption in 2000. The underlying purpose is to protect strategic EU industries.

According to the Executive Vice President of the EC, Margrethe Vestager, the DSA aims to “create a more trustworthy digital world,” by holding digital services to a higher standard of transparency. The new regulations would “level the playing field” for smaller businesses, allowing entrants to the market the opportunity to grow; the DSA would prevent large online platforms from acting as gatekeepers by placing constraints on the business models of tech giants. A draft of the legislative package is expected to be available by the beginning of December.

The push for heightened regulation in the digital market has not been well-received by the major online platforms. According to Google, the proposed laws under the DSA will “curb the power of big tech.” In response to the initiative, Google allegedly plans to push back on the proposal by targeting European politicians. Google’s strategy was revealed in an internal presentation that was leaked to the French publication Le Point, and picked up by the Financial Times. The document cited an objective to “reset the political narrative” around the proposed legislation. In essence, Google hopes to weaken support for the proposal.

Though Google neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the leaked document, Google’s management has made it clear that they have concerns surrounding the proposed legislation. Amazon and Facebook have drafted complaints to the practices proposed under the DSA as well; Microsoft and Apple are also likely to be among the affected group.

Google’s leaked presentation uncovers a common response of big tech players to unfavorable regulatory proposals in the market: manipulation of public discourse and influencing lawmakers. In addition, the presentation cited strategic offensive tactics, such as highlighting the potential negative impacts of the DSA, and seeking out “allies” in its efforts to campaign against the proposal in Brussels.

Europe is not the only entity advancing new regulations of Big Tech players. The U.K. and Australia have recently recommended similar regulatory efforts. The U.S. is now seeking to catch up to its overseas counterparts: lawmakers released a proposed “massive overhaul” of U.S. legislation surrounding antitrust enforcement in the digital marketplace. There are many steps before these proposals could become law, but they are likely triggering a similar response to the one uncovered by Google’s leaked presentation.