Why the world is drawing battle lines against American tech imperialism

Farhad Manjoo writes: Imagine you are a French lawmaker. For decades, you have protected your nation’s cultural output with the diligence of a gardener tending a fragile patch against invasive killer weeds.

You have imposed quotas on the French film industry, required radio stations to play more French music than anyone seems to want to listen to, and you have worked methodically to exempt your actions from international free-trade rules.

And now, out of nowhere, come a handful of American technology companies to wash away all your cultural defenses. Suddenly just about everything that a French citizen buys, reads, watches or listens to flows in some way or another through these behemoths.

There is Facebook co-opting your news media. Amazon is dominating book sales, while YouTube and Netflix are taking over television and movies. And the smartphone, arguably the most important platform for entertainment in this era, is controlled almost entirely by Apple and Google.

This backdrop of social anxiety explains why Europe is on the march against American tech giants. European governments have been at the forefront of an effort to limit the reach of tech companies, most often through privacy regulations and antitrust investigations. Now the European Commission is considering rules that would require streaming companies like Netflix to carry and even pay for local content in the markets they serve.

The European efforts are just a taste of a coming global freak-out over the power of the American tech industry. Over the next few years, we are bound to see increasing friction between the tiny group of tech companies that rule much of the industry and the governments that rule the lands those companies are trying to invade. [Continue reading…]

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