Not waiting for the European Commission’s Statement of Objections (antitrust charges) to run its course, France is taking action to regulate Google’s search results and also compel revelation of its search algorithm. TechCrunch reported on a bill now working its way through the French legislature.
According to an earlier Financial Times article (FT) about the bill:
The French senate is likely to adopt a bill this week which would allow the country’s national telecoms regulator to monitor search engines’ algorithms, with sweeping powers to ensure its results are fair and non-discriminatory . . .
If approved, the proposal would give Arcep, France’s telecoms regulator, powers to scrutinize any search engine that had sufficient power to “structure the functioning of the digital economy.” Google would be required to provide links to at least three rival search engines on its homepage, and disclose to users the “general principles of ranking.”
The stated rationale behind the bill is bringing more “fairness” to search results and also to potentially support French technology companies. According to the TechCrunch story, “Another amendment stipulating that one of the alternative search engines on display should be a French product was also supported.”
There’s no guarantee that the measures will become law in France but they’re consistent with a new aggressiveness on the part of national governments to try and regulate non-European technology companies and Google in particular.
If the bill did become law the French regulator would have the power to impose a 10 percent gross revenues penalty on Google for non-compliance. This is the same potential penalty Google could face in its antitrust case with the European Commission.
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