miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2018

A digital phantom menace

Along the last years, Europe has been accused many times of sgital protectionism, particularly by US private and public actors. It´s  curious that both the current US President Mr. Trump) and the former one (Mr. Obama) has critised at one moment or other some of the policies developed in the Union to build the Digital Single Market. It may has something to do with the surge of lobby spending in Washington by the GAFA.

Although it may be difficult to determine what is digital protectionism, what it is true is the increasing difficulty of the GAFA to do business in Europe. Without being exhaustive, we have seen last year how new data protection rules has entried into force in EU, the finance ministers mulling with the idea of a Digital tax, a review of the audiovisual legal framework that aims to establish new obligations to Netflix-alike services and several antitrust investigations leaded by the European Commission are in different stages of its proceedings.

It would be an endless debate to discuss about the fairness of the above measures. While someone may call it to stifle innovation, others call it a mechanism to level the playing field. What it is true, it is that it is starting to float the idea of a partial or total shut down of GAFA services in Europe. The most clear and recent threat in this sense has come from Google, who has been ambiguous on the possibility to close down Google News in Europe in case the new EU copyright rules includes the so-call link tax. 

We should recognise that for many of us the GAFAs are so ingrained in our daily life that it´s difficult to imagine a life without them. However, it may not be a tragedy for EU it´s total shut down in Europe. As the Sweden example show us, it is possible to survive without, for instance, Amazon services. Furthermore, according with the results of the last DESI, Sweden is the second most digitally advanced country in Europe and 84% of the internet users shop online, well above the EU average and only overcome by UK.

So the menace of the shut down of GAFA service in Europe should not be as bad as it is feared, the Sweden example show us that there is life without digital platforms and also may have some postive effects in the digital performance of a country. The consequences, it the end, may be worst for the GAFAs than EU if the bluff is called.

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