Europe is moving forward in a united front to force Big Tech that could lead to a historic showdown on the future of how the digital economy functions.
PARIS — Facing the rise of Big Tech, which by now has crossed the line far too many times, European states had forgotten the three basic requirements that make any police force effective: political will and backing; the right laws to give it the means to take action; and, finally, it needs to be armed.
But now, the European Commission has finally decided to act by presenting the Digital Market Act and the Digital Service Act — two texts with historic significance.
For the first time, Europe is declaring that Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and the other digital giants of today and tomorrow aren't players like the others. Twenty years after the emergence of the Big Four, big tech companies are no longer children who can be left unattended, but adults who must be supervised. These acts aren't about preventing them from continuing to grow or cutting them into pieces, but rather a way to make sure that they don't abuse their dominant position and accept that they have special responsibilities.
They tried to make us believe that the online and offline worlds aren't the same.
No one can deny it: Big tech companies have achieved unparalleled economic and technological power. They are everywhere in our daily lives and have become essential for consumers, citizens, companies and states — up to the point that they are now platforms which, by making the best use of billions of pieces of personal data, can slow down the emergence of competition, promote their own services or wield viral influence on the democratic debate. They are both systemic and specific players.
For years, these digital players have tried to make us believe that the online and offline worlds aren't the same, that it's impossible to enforce the same rules in a real and physical world as in a virtual and digital world. But this argument is no longer relevant: Just as banks contribute to the fight against dirty money or the media battles against fake news, big tech companies are rich and innovative enough to be subjected to an obligation of both means and result.
No single state in Europe could face such giants, supported by the United States government that retaliates as soon as the question of the Tech Giants' power is challenged. Europe is right to go on the offensive by combining its members' forces. While it is arming itself on the legal level now, it will also have to create a specific police force to take concrete actions to monitor and, potentially, to sanction.