French Senate wants Google to promote its search competitors

Senators are concerned at the powerthat search engine algorithms have to influence the French economy

French senators have amended a stodgy economics bill with a rider that would require Google to advertise three competitors on its home page, but stops short of explicitly requiring the search engine to disclose its algorithms.

The amendment, added Thursday to an economic growth, activity and equality bill, calls for any search engine likely to have a structural effect on the online economy to provide users with a way to consult at least three competing search engines from its homepage, and to ensure that it does not favor its own services over those of competitors

The wording clearly targets Google, without naming it, and comes on the heels of the European Commission's charge that Google favors its comparison shopping service over those of competing search engines.

The bill going through the French senate now also requires economically powerful search engines to provide information about how they classify or index websites, and forbids them from requiring software developers or device manufacturers to exclusively use their services.

It charges the French telecommunications and postal regulatory authority, ARCEP, with policing the rules, and gives it the power to levy fines of up to 10 percent of a company's worldwide turnover for infractions.

Surprisingly, this amendment isn't the work of the Socialist Party currently in power, but of usually business-friendly senators from the right and center-right. It was proposed by Catherine Morin-Desailly of the Union of Independent Democrats (UDI) and co-signed by Chantal Jouanno, also of the UDI; Bruno Retailleau, leader in the Senate of former President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP party, and two other UMP senators, Jean-Claude Lenoir and Jean Bizet. Jouanno was formerly secretary of state for ecology then minister of sport in Sarkozy's government.

"Fear of the monopoly power of big American websites is growing in France and Europe," they wrote in a text explaining their amendment. "The behavior of certain powerful players is threatening the pluralism of ideas and opinions, harming innovation, and obstructing the freedom to do business."

It's become urgent, they said, to provide a legislative framework to regulate search engines, given the negative consequences of some of their practices for French businesses.

The senators warned that search engine users place too much confidence in the order in which search results are presented, believing the algorithms used by the search engines to be objective and infallible. Users often lack the means to determine how the results are produced or, because of exclusivity agreements, to compare them with those of other engines, the senators added.

By playing with the parameters used by their algorithms, or with their terms and conditions of use, search engines have the ability to refuse to index any website, in a discriminatory or arbitrary manner, they said.

"Such dependence on ultra-dominant market players is bad for the dynamism of the French economy," they concluded.

Senators' unanimous adoption of the amendment Thursday night by no means makes it law. The bill it amends has already been adopted by the French National Assembly. The Senate will vote on the entirety of the bill on May 12, and then it will be up to a joint committee of the Assembly and the Senate to reconcile the differences between the two texts.

Peter Sayer covers general technology breaking news for IDG News Service, with a special interest in open source software and related European intellectual property legislation. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags antitrustFrench SenateGoogleeuropean commissionlegallegislationgovernmentinternetsearch engines

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?