MEPs want 'unbiased search', whatever that is – they're not sure either

Don't feel lonely, Google, EU Parl takes swing at Amazon, eBay too

Remember that vote in the European Parliament last week to “break up Google”? Well it’s not just about breaking up the American search giant. A closer reading between the lines of the non-legislative resolution reveals sideswipes at Amazon and eBay as well.

The resolution – which was approved by by 458 to 173 last Thursday – bemoans the “dominant position in some member states of only a few actors in the direct sale of physical goods or as a market-based platform for others to sell physical goods”.

While the Parliament cannot do anything about that itself, it calls for the EU’s competition watchdog to keep a strict eye on such operators “to monitor and prevent the abuse of such dominant positions”.

The so-called Resolution on the Digital Single Market was proposed by German MEP Andreas Schwab and his Spanish colleague Ramon Tremosa.

Although the stated aim of the resolution is “strengthening the rights of vulnerable consumers” and emphasising the importance of “seeing digital solutions as an opportunity for consumers, citizens and businesses and not as a threat” – which is interesting wording indeed.

As well as that much reported line about “unbundling search” (aka breaking up Google), the resolution also concerns itself with cloud providers: “If cloud services are provided only by a limited number of large providers, an increasing amount of information will be aggregated in the hands of those providers [entailing] risks for users, in particular as regards sensitive data.”

But perhaps the most bizarre call from this toothless document is to ask the European Commission to come up with some sort of rules that would guarantee “unbiased” search results. The document says: “Indexation, evaluation, presentation and ranking by search engines must be unbiased and transparent.” That sounds a lot like asking Google (yes, yes, AND Bing and Yahoo! too) to hand over its algorithms.

The Parliament has not made any attempt to define what it means by “unbiased search” – surely search by its very nature must discriminate – but is blithely confident that such an anomaly will deliver “more competition and choice for users and consumers and diversity in sources of information”.

Fortunately for Joe Consumer, there is nothing legally binding in the resolution and the EU member states as well as the Commission can safely chuck it in the bin without repercussions. ®

 

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