The European Union has decided to finally get serious about mitigating Silicon Valley’s influence in Europe. It’s actions in recent months, including investigations of Facebook and Google, are in part aimed at paving the way for its own companies to be more competitive. Now the EU commission is launching a separate investigation into how online platforms list search results and how they use customer data, says the Financial Times–all as part of a general plan for a “unified digital market” announced last week that could bring stricter rules for Netflix, WhatsApp, and Skype.
The EU commission will start the probe before the end of 2015 and examine how paid-for links and advertisements affect search rankings. The probe, which is separate from an antitrust lawsuit the EU filed two weeks ago accusing Google of improperly tampering with search results, is part of the EU’s proposal for an Europe-wide trade agreement to make European companies more competitive with Silicon Valley. The so-called unified digital market aims to ease and speed up cross-border e-commerce via new uniform standards that streamline obstacles like copyright disputes and expensive shipping. The proposal for a single digital market will go to the commission for approval next week, says the Financial Times.
Earlier this week, the economic ministers of France and Germany urged the EU commissioner overseeing these reforms to create a general regulatory framework for “essential digital platforms,” says the Financial Times. In a February Re/code interview, President Obama brushed off the EU’s criticisms of Silicon Valley as a smokescreen for the EU to carve out space for its own businesses.