France Armtwists Google Into Revealing Its Secret Sauce Recipe: Search Engine Algorithm


Senators in France have passed an amendment to a bill that will essentially force Google to link to and promote its main competitors from the Google home page.

While the bill did not explicitly name Google, the search engine company holds over 90 percent of search traffic in Europe. The new laws will also force search engines to reveal their algorithms in order for lawmakers to verify that the algorithms are fair.

"Fear of the monopoly power of big American websites is growing in France and Europe," said French lawmakers in 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."

The news follows a rough few weeks for Google in Europe. Europe's top authority in anti-monopoly, the European Commission, has officially charged the search giant with violating antitrust laws, saying that the company is intentionally promoting its own services and offerings over other companies and their services. The problem follows years of scrutiny for Google, largely because of its dominance in Europe.

Surprisingly enough, the amendment does not come from the fairly socialist government currently in power in France, but instead comes from the normally business-friendly French right wing. The senators who proposed the bill warned that users of search engines place too much confidence in search engine results, despite the fact that these results are often biased and unobjective. By tweaking the algorithms behind search results, companies are able to unfairly determine what services users end up using.

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

A lack of transparency in search results has landed Google in trouble multiple times in Europe. In the past few years, European countries have instituted the "right to be forgotten," which essentially enables users to request all data collected on them be deleted and that search engines do not link to content related to them and their past lives. The rule was seen as a blow to Google because of the fact that it wants to continue to build up its information, and because it uses that information for advertising.

The decision of French senators doesn't mean that the amendment has been put into law. The bill itself has already been adopted by the French National Assembly and the senate will vote on the bill on May 12. It will then be for a joint committee between the Assembly and the Senate to discuss the differences between the bill and its amendment.

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