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It's becoming obvious that Google is rapidly being boxed in by various countries. Several years ago, the EU courts created a Right to be Forgotten, in which people in EU countries could complain to Google and have certain results about them removed... in that country's localized results (i.e. French citizens would have their unflattering data scrubbed from google.fr, not google.com or any other country). This seemed to work for a while, but France demanded all results be removed worldwide. Google has since moved to geo-located filtering while litigation with France is pending.

This week the EU announced a $2.7B fine against Google for anti-trust violations. It's unclear what regulations Google may face in light of that. Today, the Canadian Supreme Court ordered worldwide removal of search results for a company.

It's obvious that the global regulation genie is out of the bottle here. I expect more countries to start issuing rulings like this, mandating changes in Google's rankings. I also expect these rulings will become more intrusive (some in France want Google's algorithm made public).

The question I have is this: if Google has nothing within these countries, or simply withdraws its physical presence, what political actions could be taken to compel Google to comply?

Note: While this touches on legal issues, the actions to compel would have to be political in nature since the enforcement would have to be between countries. i.e. if Google were to withdraw to just its US footprint, how would the EU enforce its ruling then, since their only obvious recourse would be to block Google's website, which would be unpopular.

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    “If Google has nothing within these countries” is widely unrealistic. Google is a global company and Europe/the EU is a major market. Microsoft discovered that a decade ago, Google seemed to believe it could ignore/strong arm the EU but it's not happening. Simple as that. Even if you relocate the R&D from Zurich or Warsaw to the US, Google needs to maintain sales and a legal presence and collect payments in the EU (in particular for ads), lest it loses a significant part of its revenue. – Relaxed Jun 29 '17 at 13:07
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    Similarly, Google cannot ignore the US and credibly threaten to move its operations somewhere else entirely. But smaller/poorer countries have less leverage and might indeed be ignored by Internet companies or have no other option than blocking access, which is what they are already doing. – Relaxed Jun 29 '17 at 13:10
  • @Relaxed Yes and no. Intel was also fined by the EU. The problem with comparing Intel and MS to Google, in this case, is that this is the Internet, where you might not have a physical presence. Google may well be so restricted in the EU it withdraws ads from the EU market (something similar happened in Spain over news articles and demands for payments). It might not happen, but it's not unrealistic to assume Google turns a market off over regulation. – Machavity Jun 29 '17 at 13:25
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    Yes, it is wildly unrealistic. Ads are Google's bread and butter and the EU is 500+M people with high purchasing power. EU competition law absolutely cannot be compared to regulations impacting Google News in Spain or Google Street View in Germany, pulling out of these markets completely is just unthinkable. – Relaxed Jun 29 '17 at 16:23
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    And the notion that being primarily an Internet company changes anything is a fiction. Google has and needs a significant presence and even in the highly unlikely event it would try to play games by locating as much staff as possible remotely, it still needs to operate in the EU from a legal and financial point of view. – Relaxed Jun 29 '17 at 16:24
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When a national government fines an internet company and the internet company evades that fine by removing any physical presence from that country, the government has several options, ranging from least to most collateral damage:

  • Use it as a bargain chip when negotiating with their lobbyists. Many internet companies do lots of government lobbying in order to get more favorable legal conditions. Refusing to talk to them until they pay their fine can generate some pressure.
  • See if they can get the assistance of other governments where the company still has presence to collect the fine.
  • Freeze their funding. The main source of income for most internet companies is payment for advertisement services. Governments have the means to make it impossible (or at least very difficult) for local companies to use these services.
  • Block them. Many countries already have censorship infrastructure in place to block individual websites country-wide. If an internet company doesn't play nice, they could just make them inaccessible for everyone in the country. So far most countries use their censorship infrastructure mostly to block illegal or politically undesirable content. Using it as a tool to enforce compliance with anti-trust legislation would definitely cross a new line in many countries and lead to lots of public debate. So most governments would likely see this as a last resort measure.
  • You're missing the most important factor: arrest the owners, and put out international search warrants. – paul23 Dec 16 '19 at 15:08

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