Bits: Daily Report: Europe Gets Tough on Facebook

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The Facebook Innovation Hub in Berlin last year. Facebook faces increased scrutiny in Europe. Credit Tobias Schwarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

It has been some time since a technology company ran afoul of antitrust investigators in the United States. But in Europe, it’s an entirely different story.

On Thursday, the European Union’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, fined Facebook 110 million euros, about $122 million, for providing misleading statements during the 2014 acquisition of the widely used messaging app, WhatsApp.

Ms. Vestager said the company had told the European Commission that it would not combine its data with information from WhatsApp. But last August, Facebook said it would move toward the data merger that it had promised not to undertake. Facebook said Thursday that it had acted in good faith but would not appeal the penalty.

The Justice Department’s aggressive antitrust fight with Microsoft nearly two decades ago and even its attempt to block the software company Oracle’s acquisition of a rival several years later seem like relics of a forgotten era for the tech industry in the United States.

Europeans, however, have kept up tough scrutiny of the industry, as seen in the recent fine against Facebook and the continued examination of Google’s advertising and data collection practices. As Mark Scott writes, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all become targets of long antitrust investigations in the past two decades.

And in an industry that depends so much on international customers, the laws of other countries can matter just as much as the regulations at home.

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