EU antitrust regulators have slapped Google’s Alphabet with a $1.69 billion fine for blocking rival online search advertisers. This makes it the company’s third penalty in two years.
Europe does not seem to be a big fan of Google.
The European Commission imposed a €1.49 billion ($1.69 billion) fine on Google for breaching the EU’s antitrust rules on online advertising.
Last year, the EU competition enforcer handed Google a record €4.34 billion euro ($4.94 billion) fine for using its Android mobile system to block rivals. And in 2017, they were given a €2.42 billion euro fine for hindering rival shopping comparison websites.
Google has now been hit with nearly $10 billion in fines alone by the European Union.
The ruling comes at a time when big tech companies around the world are facing increasing regulatory pressure and fierce political attacks over privacy violations, online misinformation, hate speech and other abuses.
Here is a brief look at the flak Google has been getting recently:
Muscling rivals aside
Brussels is saying Google illegally restricted client websites from displaying ads from ad service rivals in the most recent case over which Google has been fined.
The alleged misconduct included stopping publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages, forcing them to reserve the most profitable space on these pages for Google’s adverts and a requirement to seek written approval from Google before making changes to how rival adverts were displayed.
In response, Google unveiled a series of tweaks to its European search engine results that would allow certain rivals a more prominent position on results pages.
Failing to combat fake news
Last year, the EU accused Alphabet's Google, Facebook and Twitter of falling short of promises to combat fake news before the European Parliament elections in May. This is after big tech companies signed a voluntary code of conduct to stave off regulation.
The Commission also found that Google’s measures on political ads were not specific enough and the company did not clarify the extent to which action was taken to address fake news. It did not provide concrete evidence to show that it had carried out its policies in January, the Commission said.
US President Donald Trump has also accused Google of rigging the results of its dominant search engine to suppress conservative viewpoints and highlight coverage from media that he says distributes "fake news".
Google said it had announced several measures, such as disclosing whether political organisations or political issue advocacy groups were paying for European parliamentary election advertisements, and setting up a library with these details.
Its Project Shield would also help protect campaign groups and journalists from cyber-attacks.
Google is stalking you
An AP investigation found that Google has been tracking your movements.
The investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you’ve used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.
The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google’s Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.
Its own #metoo moment
Thousands of Google employees around the world briefly walked out in November 2018 to protest the company’s response to sexual harassment and demand that the world’s largest search engine address rising concerns about workplace inequality.
The protests took place in waves, beginning in Asia and then streaming across Europe and North America, with the final wave occurring at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.
The protests, which drew Google contract workers as well as employees, followed a New York Times report that Google in 2014 gave a $90 million exit package to former senior vice president Andy Rubin after he was accused of sexual harassment.
Ties to censorship in China
The Intercept news site last year reported that Google was looking to re-enter China with a search engine generating censored results to comply with the demands of the country's government.
‘Project Dragonfly’ reportedly aimed to restrict access to content that would is not favour of Xi Jinping’s Communist Party.
Google later said it has "no plans" to relaunch a search engine in China though it is continuing to study the idea, but The Intercept reported that the project had “effectively ended” after internal and external pressure from US lawmakers.