Digital Attack

Taking On the Tech Giants

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany has failed to create digital champions to take on Google and Facebook. The new white paper is intended to help kick start competition.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • On Monday, the economics ministry will present a white paper calling for a total overhaul of digital regulatory policy.
    • The white paper calls for messaging services to be subject to the same rules over customer protection, privacy and security as traditional telecoms companies.
    • The paper says citizens should have more understanding of how the technology they use works. Search engines, for example, should give more information on how they yield results.
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    Audio

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Heiko Maas
Justice minister Heiko Maas has already presented a bill obliging social networks to remove unlawful content within 24 hours. Source: DPA

The government wants to overhaul its policy on tech giants, setting up a digital agency to deal with issues of competition and transparency, Handelsblatt has learnt.

The economics ministry will present a white paper on Monday, calling for a total overhaul of digital regulatory policy.

The white paper is the latest in a series of attacks on the digital economy. Just last week, Justice Minister Heiko Maas presented a bill obliging social networks to remove clearly unlawful content within 24 hours. But the economics ministry wants to go further. The white paper also calls for the creation of new criminal offences in the field of cybercrime.

Economics State Secretary Matthias Machnig said he wanted to give competition authorities more powers to intervene in the sector.

Existing antitrust bodies are unlikely to to be pleased about this encroachment on their powers. But the government feels a new, more pro-active body is needed to deal with tech issues. In particular, a new digital agency would be able to act against a company without first proving market dominance.

“It is quite clear we need to strengthen the monitoring, analysis and action capabilities of authorities in the digital environment.”

Matthias Machnig, Economics State Secretary

The government has long pondered how to boost the German digital economy, especially in the face of competition from U.S. tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook. It wants to regulate internet companies to stop them abusing their power and at the same time enable more business models.

The white paper called for messaging services to be subject to the same rules over customer protection, privacy and security as traditional telecoms companies.

Mr. Machnig said this could be a role for the newly created digital agency.

“It is quite clear we need to strengthen the monitoring, analysis and action capabilities of authorities in the digital environment,” he said. “A digital agency can support the digitization process, set up consistent, continuous market observation, and thus enable rapid intervention.”

The paper also says citizens should have more understanding of how the technology they use works. Search engines, for example, should give more information on how they yield results.

 

Dana Heide is a political correspondent for Handelsblatt in Berlin, focusing on the economics ministry, digital policies, and small and medium-sized companies and innovation. To contact the author: d.heide@vhb.de

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