EU competition chief says she won’t yet call for breaking up tech giants

EU competition chief says she won’t yet call for breaking up tech giants
Digital sovereignty

European competition chief Margrethe Vestager has said that despite problems with large technology companies, she’s not yet ready to take the step of breaking them up, according to VentureBeat and Business Insider

During an interview at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on Thursday, Vestager said:

“From a competition point of view, you would have to do something where breaking up the company was the only solution to illegal behavior. We don’t have that kind of case right now. I will never exclude that that could happen. But so far, we don’t have a problem that big, where breaking up a company would be the solution.”

Vestager was introduced for the interview as among those most feared by the tech giants of Silicon Valley. She’s developed a reputation for being particularly tough on American tech companies, wielding unprecedented fines and investigations. 

In the interview, she said these tools “can only do part of the job” and that additional pressure from citizens and US regulators would be necessary to rein in misconduct, such as privacy violations and stifling of competition. 

However, breaking with some Democrats in the US, she said breaking up tech giants into multiple companies would just create additional problems.

Instead, she suggested special limits for tech companies that reach a certain level of size and influence. 

“When you get that big, you get a special responsibility, because you are the de factor the ruler in the sector that you own.”

She praised US regulators for taking a harder look at tech companies in recent years, and said they would need to play a key role in reining in tech giants, nearly all of which are based there. 

poll earlier this year showed that most Europeans support stronger action to regulate US tech giants, with 64 percent saying the European Union hasn’t done enough over the last five years.

Polls have shown strong majorities of Americans support the idea of breaking up tech companies, and several 2020 presidential candidates have recently taken a tough stance against companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. 

Vestager praised Twitter’s recent decision to ban political ads, and suggested Facebook should do the same. She expressed strong reservations over Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency plan, and said it would be scrutinized by the entire European Commission, over concerns that include “money laundering, terrorist financing, finances stability,” as well Facebook’s growing power.

Vestager will see an expanded role in her new five-year term, with a portfolio that will include technology policy beyond antitrust issues. 

Photo by Friends of Europe from Brussels, Belgium [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

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