Internal Google document reveals campaign against EU lawmakers

Google is planning an aggressive campaign targeted against French commissioner Thierry Breton and other regulators in Brussels over their plans to introduce new laws to curb the power of big tech, according to a leaked internal document.

The report, written in response to the EU’s plan to introduce a sweeping new Digital Services Act, laid out a two-month strategy intended to remove “unreasonable constraints” to Google’s business model and “reset the political narrative” around the proposed legislation.

The document singled out Mr Breton, who has been one of the EU’s chief proponents of breaking up big tech companies, listing among its objectives “increase pushback” on the French commissioner, while also “weakening support” for the proposed legislation within Brussels.

Google’s presentation, which was seen by the Financial Times after it was first reported on by the French publication Le Point, comes as Brussels prepares to overhaul the rules of the internet for the first time in two decades.

The new DSA will seek to legislate on a range of issues including illegal content, ad transparency and disinformation. A draft is expected by the start of December.

The leak of the internal document lays bare the tactics that big tech companies employ behind the scenes to manipulate public discourse and influence lawmakers. The presentation is watermarked as “privileged and need-to-know” and “confidential and proprietary”.

The revelations are set to create new tensions between the EU and Google, which are already engaged in tough discussions about how the internet should be regulated. They are also likely to trigger further debate within Brussels, where regulators hold divergent positions on the possibility of breaking up big tech companies.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s executive vice-president in charge of competition and digital policy, on Tuesday argued to MEPs that structural separation of big tech is not “the right thing to do”. However, in a recent interview with the FT, Mr Breton accused such companies of being “too big to care”, and suggested that they should be broken up in extreme circumstances.

Among the other tactics outlined in the report were objectives to “undermine the idea DSA has no cost to Europeans” and “show how the DSA limits the potential of the internet . . . just as people need it the most”.

The campaign document also shows that Google will seek out “more allies” in its fight to influence the regulation debate in Brussels, including enlisting the help of Europe-based platforms such as Booking.com.

Booking.com told the FT: “We have no intention of co-operating with Google on upcoming EU platform regulation. Our interests are diametrically opposed.”

Google’s market dominance came under increased scrutiny earlier this month when the US Department of Justice launched a landmark antitrust case against it, referring to the US tech giant as “a monopoly gatekeeper for the internet”.

In response to its strategic offensive against the EU, Mr Breton told the FT: “Am I surprised? Not really,” adding that he remained “determined to do the right thing . . . now more than ever”.

Karan Bhatia, Google’s vice-president for global government affairs and public policy, said: “In this extraordinary year, people and businesses are asking more, not less, from technology and technology companies.

“Europe needs policies, including a Digital Services Act, that rise to that challenge. As we’ve made clear in our public and private communications, we have concerns about certain reported proposals that would prevent global technology companies from serving the growing needs of European users and businesses. 

“We fully support, and will continue to advocate for, a DSA that ensures technology can contribute to Europe’s recovery and future economic success.”

Additional reporting by Tim Bradshaw

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