Web Search Results Should be More Transparent says the EU

While ruling out a separate law for web platforms, the European Union’s digital chief wants more transparency about advertising in web search results for search engines such as Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft’s Bing.

The EU executive would not take a horizontal approach to regulating online services, said Andrus Ansip on Friday, the European Commission Vice-President who is overseeing a wide-ranging inquiry into how web platforms conduct their business.

“We will take a problem-driven approach. It’s practically impossible to regulate all the platforms with one really good single solution,” Ansip said.

Big U.S. tech firms such as Facebook, Google and Amazon who lobbied hard against new rules for online platforms and what they saw as an anti-American protectionist backlash and the words of the European Commission Vice-President would come as a relief to the web industry which is primarily dominated mainly by big U.S. tech firms.

“We praise the Commission for understanding that a horizontal measure for all platforms is practically impossible. While a lot of online platforms enable economic growth, their business models differ widely,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, director of the Computer & Communications Industry Association which represents the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon.

However the level of transparency of some search engines when displaying ads in search results was what he was worried about, said Ansip.

The conditions of use of services such as Google Maps, Apple Inc’s IoS mobile operating system and Google’s Android and the transparency of paid-for reviews are issues about transparency that the Commission is also looking into.

“Maybe it’s not too much to ask for more transparency talking about search engines,” Ansip said.

The idea that the Commission would make search engines pay to display snippets of news articles, dubbed the “Google tax”, as part of its EU copyright law reform due later this year was also denounced by the former Estonian prime minister.

Without making hosting websites such as YouTube directly liable, the EU executive is looking into making rules on taking down illegal content clearer and more effective.

“Now musicians ask, please, take it down and keep it down. We want to make those rules more clear,” Ansip said.

However a provision where websites such as Amazon, eBay and Google’s YouTube are not held liable for illegal content that is uploaded on to their systems would not be changed by the commission.  They do, however, have a responsibility to take it down once they are notified of it.

A communication detailing its plans on web platforms would be published by the Commission in June.

(Adapted from Reuters.com)


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