Internet

How Regulation Drives Lobbying, Google vs. the EU Edition

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credit: Carlos Luna / Foter / CC BY

The European edition of Politico launched this week with, among other stories, a nice report on "The Google Gold Rush," looking at how tech firms are scrambling to staff up their lobby shops. The hiring binge, the story suggests, is a direct result of an accusation last week by the European Union's competition commissioner that search giant Google is violating EU antitrust rules by favoring its own products in its search results.

That accusation, made formally for the first time after a long back and forth between Google and European regulators, came with a strong hint that Google would face additional regulatory pressure beyond its search practices. "In a sign that the pressure in Europe would probably expand to other areas of Google's business, the antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, also said she had opened a formal antitrust investigation into the company's Android smartphone software," The New York Times reported. 

So with regulators on the move, major tech companies with European presences are responding by beefing up their overseas lobbying operations. From the Politico report:

Uber is only just one example of a tech company with plans to expand its lobbying operations here. The company, which has encountered intense political hostility in most European capital and operates in some markets in a legal gray area, recently employed two ex-Google EU corporate affairs veterans, Simon Hampton and Antoine Aubert.

MacGann told POLITICO he expects to double the size of his office — from three to six — by the end of the year.

Facebook is also increasing its presence here. Given Google's battle royal with the Commission, it should come as no surprise that the search engine giant is also staffing up. 

The big takeaway from all this is that regulation, or even the threat of regulation, creates demand for lobbying and jobs for lobbyists. To the extent that regulators look likely to take big actions against large corporations, they are driving companies to spend more time and money lobbying. And that means they have less resources to devote to creating products and services that might be of value to their customers, because, at least to some extent, government regulators have become their customers. 

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  1. Microsoft was notoriously uninterested in lobbying or directly involving itself in politics until the stupid Clinton administration went after them for antitrust violations. After that, they became quite interested. So it goes, the government corrupting and damaging the market at every fucking turn.

    1. But lobbying is a sign of market failure, somehow.

      1. The need to lobby points to a failure in government.

        1. The rise in lobbying is evidence of the need for more regulation.

          1. The need for more regulation is a sign that GOD HATES US.

            1. A no-shit real quote from NYT commenter I just responded to (quoted in part):

              “when we have legislaters who promote the interests of their constituencies rather than their donors . . . then we can enoy the more limited government so enthusiastically supported by Brian Doherty”

              Until those “legislaters” learn to be good and decent human beings, we can’t possibly consider limiting their power to keep the evil corporations in line!

              1. In other words, we can try to limit the power of legislators once legislators stop wanting power.

                Got it.

                1. It’s so obvious. If we stop letting the government operate without limits, then the damage businesses can do in partnership with corrupt officials is reduced.

    2. Nowadays companies realize that playing the political power game is necessary overhead. The state poisons everything it even deigns to touch..

    3. “…stupid Clinton administration went after them for antitrust violations”

      The Clinton administration wasn’t being stupid. They where playing the game as designed by the politicians. I believe they call it a protection shakedown if it’s not the government doing it. Prior to the ’98 lawsuit MS payed little to nothing on lobbying or political contributions. Today they are one of the largest contributors spending $129,986,000 on lobbying and $32,143,977 in contributions since the “Anti-Trust” lawsuit.

      http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000115

      “That’s a nice OS you got there Mr. Gates, would be a shame if something where to happen to it!”.

      1. Stupid, evil, what does it matter?

  2. It’s Europe, so at least we know Uber drivers won’t be shooting anyone in self-defense.

  3. If I were the Duke of Google I’d have a hard time not opting for the “go fuck yourself” defense. I honestly cannot see how a foreign government has any legitimacy in telling google how to write it’s algorithm.

    Nor telling any website, foreign or domestic, about what they owe their consumers for free. Saying that the EU has a right to dictate the terms of a Google search is the exact same as saying that the EU has a right to dictate the words used in a conversation between two freely interacting people.

    1. Unfortunately, you’d be quickly replaced by someone that won’t cost Google shareholders money.

      1. Fortunately, as the Duke of Google, I’m not beholden to plebiscites of the lower gentry.

        1. I like “Equity Lord” better.

          1. Duke of Google, High Lord of Equity, Potentate of Data, Protector of the Cloud and Slayer of Bureaucrats, all your data are belong to us.

    2. “EU has a right to dictate the words used in a conversation between two freely interacting people.”

      They do, essentially, claim this right, don’t they?

  4. European Union’s competition commissioner

    Jesus H Tapdancin’ Christ. The very fact that such a position exists tells you all you need to know. The idea of a bureaucrat who regulates competition to ensure that nobody actually wins said competition…only a socialist could love that.

    1. Well, I should read before posting, EES.

      1. Meh…I put it down to “great minds think alike”.

        Although the competition commissioner would probably have an issue with that; call it an “antitrust violation” or some such.

  5. “[…] the European Union’s competition commissioner[…]”

    Yeah, because there won’t be any competition without a gov’t commissioner to make sure there is.

    1. But it would be kind of competition where some people win and some people lose! We need a more enlightened form of competition in which everyone wins by losing equally.

      1. “[…]” everyone wins by losing equally.”

        Except the pigs; they win more ‘equally’ than the others.

  6. Yeah, I doubt it will happen, but I’d love to see Google tell these scabby little bureaucrats exactly what they can jam up their bureaucratic asses.

  7. JOBS CREATED!

    ….

    not that they actually do anything that adds value or such….

    1. Feature, not a bug.

  8. Semi OT – I heard on the news this morning that Google is going to start bumping up “mobile-friendly” sites to the top of its search results. I would hope this only applies to searches made from a mobile device. Some of still like to stare at big, legible screens you know.

    1. Goddammit – some of “us”

      1. Typing on a mobile device?

        1. Heh. Hell no – I am starting to really freaking hate everything “mobile”. It needs to stop sucking all the energy away from the desktop, it needs to stop causing people to walk around town like fucking idiots, and then it needs to get off my lawn.

          1. While I use tablets for browsing, I despise most mobile-catering sites. Because, you know, they suck.

          2. It is a good reminder for me that we are very much living through the technological revolution, and that not all new ideas are good ones destined to last.

          3. It pisses me off, too. ‘Course I just posted this from a phone…

  9. OT: Wish me luck; I’m defending some poor schlub against a charge of knowingly possessing a dangerous drug.

    Honestly, juries should simply nullify such charges, because who’s rights have been violated?

  10. I can list 5 search engines off the top of my head. All free to use. Not like you have to use Google.

    1. Damn. Maybe YOU should be the Competition Commissioner.

      1. Yeah, but Google is really good at search… and they want to show you other services they think will help you for free… so evil.

    2. Which makes it all the more arbitrary that the EU is telling Google how exactly their free shit is supposed to look. If Europeans don’t like Google, they ought to be free not to use it. If the government knows how Google can run better than Google, let them start their own engine, it’s not like they have to use Google.

      1. Google could show them what it is like to be free to not use Google by blocking all government office IP addresses. They would probably be fine with that, right?

        1. Google really should. Piss on their law and let the EU try to win in court. Next thing you know Pakistan will pass a law that Pornhub.com must not return pornographic content in their search.

          It’s really a damn shame that humiliating government weasels for the sociopathic shitbags they are is just so cost prohibitive.

  11. This is how the corporations control the government. They hire lobbyists who influence the regulators into doing their corporate bidding. The obvious solution is a more powerful government that can resist and control the corporations that control it. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government. And if the corporations continue to control the government, then the solution is a more powerful government.

    1. Is this like a Mandelbrot set, where it can keep going, on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on?

    2. What’s funny is that corporations really control jackshit. Some corporate officers get in good with politicians and get their rewards, but the companies themselves often get put in regulatory boxes. Really, corporate culture in the U.S. is quite timid when it comes to dealing with government. Even giant businesses that appear to have a total inside path with the current government are cautious and worried about next week.

      1. They don’t have the men with guns and the legitimacy to use them. That extremely simple observation seems to allude almost everyone.

    3. All government and no solutions make sarc a… something something.

  12. THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO GIVE GOVERNMENTS MOAR POWER TO REGULATE CORPORATIONS

  13. Personally, I blame Google for bending over just a little to far on the whole “Right to be forgotten” issue.

    The important question is, if they consent, is it still rape?

    1. Yeah. Is it consent when you’re being threatened with violence?

      1. Is it consent when you’re being threatened with violence?

        My apologies, my blatant victim-blaming was meant to be sarcastic.

        Although, what exactly is the threat of violence here? Would the EU legitimately march into the European equivalent of Best Buys and Mobile Phone stores and confiscate phones? Snatch Android phones from the hands of users, install an alternate search engine and give it back?

        If Google says ‘Fuck You’ I see the Competition Commissioner going from three big name providers to two and little ability to do anything one way or the other.

        1. My apologies, my blatant victim-blaming was meant to be sarcastic.

          My apologies, my obliviousness to your sarcasm was meant to be rhetorical.

          Although, what exactly is the threat of violence here?

          You’ll notice the EU doesn’t just simply say “Hey Google, now it’s illegal to return search results X, Y or Z”. They make a law (if you want to call it that) that says “Hey Google, your customers have a right to search results X, Y or Z and a right to demand the censorship of search results A, B or C.”

          They essentially want to create a class of potential litigants, who would be entitled to wield the violence of the state in the enforcement of their collection of settlements. Opening the company up to a flood of lawsuits that even if they were all frivolous, would cost them dearly to defend against.

  14. I guess Sri Lanka can pass a law to outlaw internet pornography world wide. Universal jurisdiction is a real cunt. The fucking balls on those EU scumbags.

    1. No worse than California, which asserts national jurisdiction out of its ass on a regular basis.

  15. Google Inc has spent about half-a-million and offered 5-million to settle with a Plaintiff seeking FCC Title II regulation of the net as a common carrier. The FCC announced compliance with this demand in an over 400 page order on February 26, 2015 and released this order March 12, 2015. This Plaintiff replied to each Defender Commissioner statement in support or opposed to this order:
    1. Commissioner Tom Wheeler (apps.fcc.gov/ecfs / comment/view?id=60001027399) D
    2. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel (apps.fcc.gov / ecfs/comment/view?id=60001027402) D
    3. Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn (apps.fcc.gov / ecfs/comment/view?id=60001027400) D
    4. Commissioner Ajit Pai ( http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comme…..0001027404) R
    5. Commissioner Michael O’Rielly ( http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comme…..0001027403) R
    This order does not make the Title II common carrier safe wherever encountered by the anonymous like should have been done but allows for citizen complaints for violation(s) of 18 U.S.C. ?? (1462, 1464). The free broadcasting of pornography by pornhub et. al. to the anonymous public has been illegal since first done. Broadcasting by wire and radio is material being placed “online” to be discovered by the anonymous public in searches like linked in each reply to commissioners above at FCC.gov

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