Lacking Its Own Digital Giants, Europe Plans New Approach


Policymakers also outlined standards for industries to share data within the European Union, making it easier for companies and researchers to pool information they collect to better compete against the tech companies that control much of the world’s data.

The debate over the tech policies has gotten the attention of the tech giants. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s top executive, was in Brussels on Monday to meet with officials about the proposals. Top executives from Apple, Google and Microsoft have also visited the European capital over the past several weeks.

The proposal leaves many questions unanswered, including whether the European Union will seek to regulate harmful internet content, a contentious topic that raises concerns about free expression online. Some leaders in Brussels would like to hold companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter more accountable by removing some of the protections that keep them from being held legally liable for user-generated posted on their platforms.

Europe has been a world leader in technology regulation, including privacy and antitrust, influencing how countries elsewhere are reacting to the power and influence of the world’s biggest tech platforms. But as Europe has created a reputation as the world’s most aggressive watchdog of Silicon Valley, it has failed to nurture its own tech ecosystem. That has left countries in the region increasingly dependent on companies that many leaders distrust.

In Europe, the effort to support the local tech industry is part of a broader debate about the role the government should play in giving European businesses an advantage over foreign competitors. While officials in some countries, including France, Germany Italy and Poland, have called for more state intervention in the economy, others, including Ms. Vestager, have been more wary.

Priya Guha, who works at the venture capital firm Merian Ventures and was previously the British government’s top liaison to Silicon Valley, said Europe was attempting to balance the potential harms of modern technology while bolstering its position in the digital economy.

“Europe is trying to consider the impact on society whilst maximizing the benefits,” she said.


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