EU Votes to Urge Google Break Up

People are silhouetted with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The European parliament today voted in favour of an anti-monopoly motion aimed at internet search engines that could lead to the break up U.S. technology giant Google.

Although the vote did not target Google by name, it represents the latest development in a long-running dispute between the EU and the multi-faceted company, which holds 90% of the market share for internet search in Europe, after rivals lodged an anti-competition case in 2010.

The motion encourages the European Commission "to prevent any abuse in the marketing of interlinked services by operators of search engines" and "to consider proposals with the aim of unbundling search engines from other commercial services".

Legislators in Strasbourg voted to support an antitrust investigation into Google's business practices by 384 to 173 with 56 abstentions. Google has yet to comment on the results.

The decision over what to do about Google's dominance of the search market ultimately rests with antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager, but the motion is a clear indication of the feeling among Europe's legislators, and indicates their preferred option of splitting the search engine arm of the company from its other commercial services, which ranges from everything from Gmail and Google Docs the Android operating system .

Evelyne Gebhardt, a socialist lawmaker from Germany, spoke to the parliament before the vote, showing her support for the resolution "to make sure that our young entrepreneurs — young people coming out of university who are building things, who have new ideas — have an opportunity to give their services quite freely" on the internet.

But the latest proposal from MEPs Andreas Schwab, a German member of the centre-right European People's Party, and Ramon Tremosa of Spain, a member of the parliament's Liberal grouping, has been met with criticism too.

"It's wrong to neuter Google," telecommunications industry analyst Jeff Kagan told Newsweek. "Governments get in the way of business growth. They're giving no consideration as to how the restrictions they want to put on Google will harm them."

Kagan believes that breaking up Google will affect not only the company itself, but "its users, investors, all of its partners, and all of the companies that do business with the company."

"As Google continues to grow, it impacts the market place and its competitors. As a company grows they do have to look at that company differently, make sure the marketplace is still a good place for growth, but you don't cut the arms and legs off of it to stop it from growing just because it is successful."

Ultimately though Kagan says: "If Google really wants to do business in Europe, they'll have to play by the rules."

U.S politicians were critical of the vote, with U.S. senators Ron Wyden and Orrin Hatch and congressmen Dave Camo and Sander Levin telling the BBC: "This and similar proposals build walls rather than bridges [and] do not appear to give full consideration to the negative effect such policies may have on the broader U.S.-EU trade relationship."