The US and the EU launch to try to undermine the power of technology | Economy

Mark Zuckerberg, speaking by videoconference at a US Congressional antitrust hearing in July.
Mark Zuckerberg, speaking by videoconference at a US Congressional antitrust hearing in July.Graeme Jennings / AP

In a widespread crackdown on Facebook, in which it is easier to name the absentees – Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and South Dakota – the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC, in its English acronym) ) and 46 states, the District of Columbia (to which Washington belongs) and Guam, the US island of Micronesia, have denounced Marck Zuckerberg’s company this week for abusing its market dominance and for gobbling, like big fish, the small fish to avoid any hint of competition. The acquisition of two emerging rivals, Instagram, a social network for sharing photos, and the popular messaging service WhatsApp, also patented an abusive practice that has not been limited to these takeovers, carried out in 2012 and 2014 for a billion dollars and 19,000 million, respectively.

Last month, one before the outcome of the federal and state investigation was announced, the Palo Alto-based company announced the purchase of Kustomer, a consumer services start-up, valued at $ 1 billion ($ 825 million). euros at current exchange rate) for The Wall Street Journal. In May, it took over Giphy, a website for making and sharing animated images (GIFs), in an operation that attracted the attention of the British competition regulator. In 2008, Twitter rejected Facebook’s offer to buy, which also tried Snapchat.

That big technology is in the spotlight for monopolistic practices or more viscous actions, such as lax protection of user privacy or even data traffic (the Cambridge Analytica case of Facebook is the paradigmatic episode), no it is a novelty. Increasing scrutiny has put the Big Five (Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft) in the US, which, for months, have been forced to swim and put away their clothes, as shown by their neatness and zeal to the time to restrict political advertising on the eve of the November 3 elections or to filter with more determination the enormous volume of disinformation that has colonized social networks.

After the federal and state lawsuit filed on Wednesday, after an investigation that lasted for 18 months, Facebook becomes the second great technology that is the subject of a judicial action, after the conviction of Google by the Department of Justice, in October, for abusing their position in search engines and Internet advertising. The rare political consensus, in a polarized country after the mandate of Donald Trump, is another of the notable derivatives of this offensive that, even, has put those responsible against the ropes of the Capitol, in hearings on their political bias and permeability to fake news from the networks they run.

According to the indictment made public this Wednesday, Facebook, whose market value is estimated at more than 800,000 million dollars (680,000 million euros), decided to buy Instagram to take advantage of the change in preferences when sharing photos and the smartphone boom, instead of competing fair and square. Likewise, in 2014 the company agreed to acquire WhatsApp to raise a deterrent barrier, since any other application would have a difficult time reaching the size that the messaging service had achieved. Likewise, the trade regulatory body and prosecutors accuse Zuckerberg’s social network of anti-competitive practices by limiting access to its programming interface to those developers and companies that pledge not to create functionalities capable of competing with the technology giant. Although the legal battle is arduous, and it is doubtful that the purchase of Instagram and WhatsApp can be undone, the precedent worries the Silicon Valley epigones.

Europe moves tab

On the other side of the Atlantic, Brussels is launching its proposal for the Digital Services Law this week, which should replace the old electronic commerce regulation, approved in 2000. The regulation, which will be discussed and approved on Tuesday, also foresees the possibility of force to divide or sell units, according to community sources. The Commission is suspicious how the giants have only grown, even more so with the pandemic, preventing the emergence of new competitors in Europe.

According to the sources consulted, the draft that is being discussed contains a sanctioning regime. This has a graduation: millionaire fines of up to 6% of the turnover are raised; the interruption of service and, ultimately, the dismantling of the company in the EU if they have incurred an abuse of position that is too serious, that is, if they prevent users from leaving or using another platform.

Large groups are on guard. Le Point published that giants like Google had the slogan to exert maximum pressure on the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. At stake is the market dominance exercised by the so-called GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple), increasingly necessary when combining data, so that they can launch new services. That is the spiral that Brussels now intends to break.