- Professor Gus Hurwitz, Nebraska Law
On June 27, the European Commission issued the long awaited opinion in its competition case against Google. The Commission held that Google had abused its dominant position as an Internet search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in search results and demoting those of competitors. In addition to imposing a fine of €2.42 billion ($2.7 billion) – the largest fine the E.U. has ever levied in an abuse of dominance case – the Commission ordered Google to correct the unlawful conduct within 90 days or face penalty payments up to 5% of the company’s average daily worldwide turnover. This conduct component of the remedy potentially places the company under Commission oversight for years to come. In addition, Google is likely to face related civil actions in individual Member States brought by competitors – aided by the new E.U. Directive on Antitrust Damages Actions – alleging that their business has been hurt by Google’s search practices.
The Commission’s view of the case is in stark contrast to that of U.S. antitrust enforcers who, after thoroughly investigating much the same conduct, elected to take no action. What does the decision mean for the future of antitrust enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic? Does it suggest a move toward more aggressive enforcement in area of single firm conduct, particular in the tech sector? Is the Commission’s approach a new one or does it reflect the re-emergence of “essential facilities” theories? Are U.S. and European antitrust enforcers now headed in different directions generally or is this case an outlier? Will the E.U.'s actions embolden other countries around the world?
Recent headlines make clear the threat posed by cyber criminals, especially those that deploy so-called ransomware. Although federal law enforcement has urged victims to report cyber incidents and generally recommends that victims not give in to a ransom demand unless all other options are exhausted, a recent report by IBM Security found that 70 percent of businesses infected have paid ransom.
The ransomware epidemic highlights a potential asymmetry of interests between cybercrime victims and law enforcement. The chief concern of a victim of a ransomware attack may be to regain access to business data and systems, even if paying the ransom funds the perpetrator and potentially leads to further attacks. Meanwhile, law enforcement has only a limited ability to assist a victim in incident response. How can cybercrime victims and law enforcement better work together to better protect victim interests and better advance law enforcement's work?
Technology is having a significant impact on how financial services are being delivered. The rise of non-bank financial firms using the internet as a means of distribution is calling into question the divide between state and federal regulation and the definition of what a “bank” is. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has responded by offering a new banking charter for non-depository fintech firms, while the states have filed law suits to prevent what they see as an illegal overreach by the OCC into their jurisdiction. How fintech firms are regulated, and by whom, could have a significant impact on how innovative, accessible, and inclusive financial services are in the future.
In recent years, the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union has become an arena where governments promote rival visions of the future of the organization and, more importantly, how the Internet itself should be governed. These debates reflect a growing tension around a foundational question: to what extent can and should nation-states act to manage the flow of information within their sovereign territory? As the Internet’s importance as a driver for global economic and social growth has grown over the past decade, so too has the interest of some governments to secure for themselves a larger role in regulating the technical, economic, and policy aspects of its management.
Governments are driven by a range of objectives as they consider the future of the Internet, including access and uptake, competition policy, privacy and security, and, in some cases, regime stability. Will it be possible to accommodate some governments’ desire for a more robust role and still maintain essential democratic principles such as the free flow of information between people around the world, universal human rights, and the core belief that has driven the Internet’s exponential growth over the past decade: that users, companies, and civil society – not governments – ought to control the Internet’s future? What are the political, economic, and geopolitical factors driving Internet regulation and policies? Umair Javed moderated a discussion with Will Hudson of Google, Sally Wentworth of the Internet Society, and Patricia Paoletta of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis to explain recent activities at the UN to influence global Internet policy.