Generally, I’m not kept awake by the lack of giant global tech companies based in Europe. Venture capitalists may find it frustrating, and there are obvious risks for the future if China and the USA dominate the technology landscape, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s no big issue.
However, one place that the lack of European tech giants is evident can be seen in the tech industry’s reaction to the EU Copyright Directive
currently making its way towards becoming law. As a recap, this would force platform operators to block copyright infringement, potentially leading to the end of meme culture. It would also force aggregators and social platforms to get licenses from news sites to create snippets of articles when you share them.
If this was a US law, you’d see Reddit and other platforms blocking all images for a day and replacing them with a request to call your political representatives.
But no – this is a European law, and the main social platforms are all based in the US. If their reaction to GDPR is anything to go by, they’ll ignore it until it’s law. Some might even sacrifice their European offerings rather than go to the trouble of complying (Instapaper still isn’t available in the EU, a month on!).
Political action from big tech companies helped shift the net neutrality debate and postponed the eventual victory for greedy ISPs by several years.
Where is the outrage at the Copyright Directive? It’s muted, to say the least, and that really highlights how significant the actions of big tech platforms can be in these debates. And with that in mind, a few more homegrown giants would definitely help.