President Donald Trump criticized European Union leaders Thursday, following their decision to fine tech giant Google $5 billion for violating anti-trust laws.
“I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google,” he tweeted. “They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!”
I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google. They truly have taken advantage of the U.S., but not for long!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2018
The comments come days after the president berated the EU, calling it a “foe” for what he deemed unfair trade policies.
“I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe,” he said during an interview with CBS Evening News over the weekend. “Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”
Trump’s comment prompted EU President Donald Tusk to fire back, using one of the U.S. president’s favorite phrases. “America and the EU are best friends,” he tweeted. “Whoever says we are foes is spreading fake news.”
The EU slapped Google with a $5 billion fine on Wednesday this week, after accusing the company of engaging in shady business practices meant to undermine its competition. Among other things, European Commission officials stated Google had “denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete…[and] denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in this important sphere.”
As ThinkProgress previously reported, Google specifically used a number of questionable tactics for its Android devices, including paying manufacturers to “exclusively pre-install” Chrome and Google Search on the devices as a pre-condition for licensing the Google Play app store. The tech giant was also accused of barring manufacturers from selling devices running any “alternative versions” of the Android operating system.
“Google offers its mobile apps and services to device manufacturers as a bundle, which includes the Google Play Store, the Google Search app, and the Google Chrome browser. Google’s licensing conditions make it impossible for manufacturers to pre-install some apps but not others,” Commission officials wrote.
“Pre-installation can create a status quo bias. Users who find search and browser apps pre-installed on their devices are likely to stick to these apps… Google’s practice has therefore reduced… the ability of rivals to compete effectively with Google,” they added.
Google has 90 days to comply with the EU’s decision and end the practices outlined in the ruling, or risk additional fines equal to 5 percent of its average daily revenue. Google spokespersons have said they plan to appeal the ruling.
Trump’s sudden defense of Google is somewhat surprising, given the GOP’s criticism of the tech behemoth in recent years. In June, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) slammed the company for exhibiting what he claimed was anti-conservative bias, following an incident in which “Nazism” was listed in a Google search as an associated ideology of the California Republican Party. As Wired noted at the time, the incident was likely an unfortunate consequence of Google’s reliance on third-party open platforms like Wikipedia to populate its search results; Google itself claimed the incident was due to an error by a monitoring system.
Republicans were nonetheless incensed. “I’m used to getting attacked, I enjoy getting attacked by these crazy leftists. But what the American people need to understand is that there is bias against conservatives and Republicans all across this country,” Nunes said, during an interview with Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures that month.
He added, “The best thing would be is for there to be a new search engine that actually doesn’t censor conservatives. I think there’s a free market solution here if somebody can compete with Google. If they can’t, then ultimately we’re looking at monopolies, and then that brings in a whole other set of circumstances.”
Last summer, after a male Google software engineer was fired for circulating an extremely sexist company-wide memo that later leaked to the press, right-wing lawmakers leapt to defend him, slamming the tech company in the process.
“The mistreatment of conservatives and libertarians by tech monopolies is a civil rights issue,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tweeted at the time.
Trump himself has criticized Google in the past. During the 2016 campaign, he pushed a baseless conspiracy theory about Google supposedly rigging its search results in favor of then-rival candidate Hillary Clinton, accusing the company of colluding with Clinton to hand her the election.
“A new post-debate poll, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide and that’s despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton,” he said at a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. “How about that?”
The conspiracy was quickly debunked and Google itself issued a statement saying it routinely filtered out unreliable search results. “Our Autocomplete algorithm will not show a predicted query that is offensive or disparaging when displayed in conjunction with a person’s name,” spokespersons added.