European politicians have voted to break up Google’s business. The vote has no immediate practical effect but is politically symbolic.
Strictly speaking the motion, which passed the European Parliament by 384 votes to 174, does not apply solely or specifically to Google, but rather all online search companies. However, with Google used for around 90 percent of searches in Europe, it is clearly the target.
The motion asks the European Commission (the administrative wing of European-wide government) to consider “unbundling search engines from other commercial services.”
It doesn’t relate to any specific incident or legal action, but it’s no coincidence that it comes after European officials spent four years investigating antitrust concerns against Google. That case is ongoing as officials have been unable to reach a settlement with Google and it appears the next step may be to issue a fine (which could theoretically reach $5 billion) and wait for Google to respond with court action.
The theory behind the motion passed by the politicians appears to be that splitting Google’s search division from its other activities would be the most effective way of making sure it didn’t unfairly favor its own sites and services when determining search rankings.
European Commission sources indicate its extremely unlikely the commission would order the break up of Google or any other company, which would be a step it has never before taken.