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Indybay Feature
Putting Facebook & Co. in its place
by LobbyControl
Monday Nov 8th, 2021 4:18 AM
there has been growing concern in civil society and among policymakers that these practices conflict with users' right to privacy, enable manipulation and disinformation campaigns, and ultimately undermine the principle of a public sphere subject to democratic rules.
LobbyControl – Initiative für Transparenz und Demokratie
November 4, 2021 by Team

Put Facebook & Co. in its place!
The escalating power of digital corporations endangers our democracy. This is also shown by their concentrated lobby resistance to the EU's attempt to subject large platforms such as Google, Facebook or Amazon to stricter rules. This month, the Internal Market Committee in the European Parliament will vote on its proposal for such a set of rules, after which the Parliament will have the floor. We appeal to MEPs to be consistent now and to pass a digital market law for the benefit of citizens, small businesses and democracy.

Members of the Internal Market
Committee, Members of the European Parliament,

the great lobbying and market power of Google, Facebook and Co. is a threat to democracy. It is high time to limit the power of the tech companies so that Europe can follow the path of democratic digitization.

We therefore call on you to adopt stricter rules for digital companies under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which

(1) Avoid delays due to lengthy disputes with the
legal and lobby departments of the corporations, (2) oblige gatekeepers to open their services to others and make them linkable (comprehensive interoperability, Art. 6f), (3) leave no loopholes, e.B. in the prohibition to merge the data of users (Art. 5a),
(4) the concentration of power on a few platforms through stronger merger control and unbundling measures e (Articles 12 and 16),
(5) provide sufficient resources for effective enforcement.

Sincerely,

[Your name will be appended automatically]

Background
1. How the power of internet platforms threatens our democracy
Facebook, Google, Amazon & Co. are among the most powerful and influential corporations in the world. The digital industry spends more than 97 million euros annually on lobbying in Brussels alone. It is currently the sector with the highest lobbying spending in the EU, even surpassing the auto, pharmaceutical or financial lobby. With this lobbying power, Facebook & Co are trying to prevent stricter rules for digitization and expand their economic power.

The market power of the big platforms is already gigantic. They have pushed or bought up countless competitors from the market in recent years, and there is nothing to suggest that they will voluntarily stop doing so. This already results in monopoly-like positions: Google's search engine organizes knowledge on the Internet, the in-house video platform Youtube depends on traditional television. Amazon dominates online trading, Facebook controls the majority of social networks with Instagram and Whatsapp. Public administration and most businesses depend on Microsoft products, while the mobile app market is dominated by Google and Apple.

Companies exploit their dominant position to their advantage. They abuse the control possibilities of their platforms (the so-called "gatekeeper" power) in order to further expand their economic position. This leads to an ever-increasing concentration of power. We must break this spiral.

In other words, Google & Co. are now systemically important – and at the same time try to hijack the political system with their concentrated lobbying power. The power of internet platforms endangers our democracy.

2. What is the Digital Markets Act – and what can it do?

The EU has recognized that the power of the big platforms is too great. To limit them, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) provides important solutions. It is intended to prevent the abuse of power by Google & Co. According to the DMA, Internet platforms that are too large should be subject to separate rules and be under surveillance. If they violate the rules, penalties may be imposed. In the case of systematic violations, the EU Commission could also order the spin-off of parts of the company as a last resort.

The proposed rules are aimed at the platforms abandoning their monopolistic behavior. This is not only important for us as users, but also for democracy. Because the digital platforms use their monopoly power to continue to grow and to incorporate more and more business areas. For example, Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, is now also the largest cloud computing provider. "Incidentally", the Group operates several streaming services, a service for Internet advertising, a supermarket chain, an aircraft fleet and an e-learning platform, produces technological devices, offers AI services – and is currently in the process of entering the electricity market, incorporating a film studio and sending its own satellites into space.

With the growing economic power, the political influence is also growing – a democratic design of digitization is becoming increasingly difficult. That is why we are committed to limiting the lobbying power of Google & Co. as well as their economic power. To achieve this, we need a strong DMA that sets limits to digital platforms and their dominance over the Internet.
What sometimes sounds technical is of great importance for democracy and a democratic design of digitization:

Freedom of access: Article 6f, for example, obliges gatekeepers ("gatekeepers": companies that control access and availability of content) to so-called interoperability. Interoperability means that different applications can work together. For example, that messengers from different providers could communicate with each other, such as messages from Whatsapp can also be sent to Signal. Behind the scenes, there is currently a hard struggle over how far-reaching the rules for interoperability should be. More interoperability creates more choice for users, more opportunities for small providers and is therefore an effective means of limiting the monopoly power of digital platforms.
Data protection: Article 5a prohibits the merging of personal data. For example, the user profiles of different services (e.B. Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram) should not be able to be linked to each other. A combination of data not only harms personal data protection, but also increases the power of digital companies as they penetrate more and more business areas.

Mergers of companies: The big five of the digital world alone – Google, Amazon, Faceboook, Apple and Microsoft – have swallowed up over 1,000 companies in the last 20 years. These included acquisitions in which they incorporated innovative competitors (e.B. Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp) or mergers that allow the excessive concentration of data in one hand. To date, European competition authorities lack the specific tools to adequately address such mergers. Google's acquisition of the fitness tracker company Fitbit, for example, was approved (subject to conditions), although it allows the combination of explosive data on health and user behavior. The DMA offers the opportunity to strengthen merger control and prevent such mergers in the future, as a report by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy shows.

Amnesty International
Article 19 (international)
Bits of Freedom (Niederlande)
Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
Citizen D (Slowenien)
Corporate Europe Observatory (EU)
Digitalcourage (Deutschland)
Elektronisk Forpost Norge (Norwegen)
Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA/international)
European Digital Rights EDRi (EU/international)
Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland
Panoptykon Foundation (Polen)
Privacy International (UK/international)
Xnet (Spanien)


Schlagwörter: Amazon, Apple, Digital Markets Act, Digitalkonzerne, Digitallobby, EU, Facebook, Google, Microsoft | Permalink

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Putting Facebook & Co in its place
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