Google CEO apologises for leaked document, EU's Breton warns Internet is not Wild West

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has apologised to Europe’s industry chief Thierry Breton over a leaked internal document proposing ways to counter the EU’s tough new rules for technology companies.

Mr Pichai and Mr Breton exchanged views in a video-conference call late on Thursday (Nov 12), the third this year, according to a statement from the European Commission.

“The Internet cannot remain a ‘Wild West’: we need clear and transparent rules, a predictable environment and balanced rights and obligations,” Mr Breton told Mr Pichai.

The call came after a Google internal document outlined a 60-day strategy to counter the European Union’s push for the new rules by getting US allies to push back against Mr Breton.

The call was initiated by Google before the document was leaked.

Mr Breton brought up the leaked document and showed it to Mr Pichai during the call and said that there was no need to use old century tactics and to play one unit at the Commission against another, a person familiar with the call said.

Mr Pichai apologised for the way the document came out, a paper which he had not seen nor signed off, saying that he would engage directly with Mr Breton if he sees language and policy that specifically targets Google, another person familiar with the call said.

Google said the two had a frank but open conversation.

“Our online tools have been a lifeline to many people and businesses through lockdown, and Google is committed to continuing to innovate and build services that can contribute to Europe’s economic recovery post-Covid,” spokesman Al Verney said in a statement.

The incident underlines the intense lobbying by tech companies against the proposed EU rules, which could impede their businesses and force changes in how they operate.

Mr Breton will announce new draft rules known as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act together with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Dec 2.

The rules will set out a list of do’s and don’ts for gatekeepers – online companies with market power – forcing them to share data with rivals and regulators and not to promote their services and products unfairly.

“The Internet cannot remain a ‘Wild West’: we need clear and transparent rules, a predictable environment and balanced rights and obligations,” Mr Breton told Mr Pichai.

“Everything that is allowed offline should be authorised online; and everything that is forbidden offline should be banned online,” he said.

Mr Breton told Mr Pichai that he would increase the EU’s power to curb unfair behaviour by gatekeeping platforms, so that the Internet doesn’t just benefit a handful of companies but also Europe’s small- and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs.

“Europe’s position is clear: everyone is welcome on our continent – as long as they respect our rules,” he told Mr Pichai.

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