U.S. tech giant Google has been embroiled in a slew of antitrust and tax evasion allegations in Europe, especially in the last couple of years, and the company hopes to invest handsomely in European start-ups, cultural landmarks and music concerts to engineer a much-needed image makeover that might change a few minds in the European parliament in the coming days. While Google hasn't given up on its political lobbying efforts, its refreshed investment decisions reflect its will to endear itself to the people on the streets. The company is currently spending as much as $450 million on new initiatives between 2015 and 2017 which might not sound much compared to the amount Google might have to pay up if found guilty of antitrust allegations, apart from the loss of face.
Google's soft power approach instead of an aggressive one includes an initiative to train as many as two million European youngsters on how to succeed in online marketing and e-commerce activities. While news publishers in Europe have been Google's most vocal critics, instead of taking them on directly, the company has issued a $167 million grant to such publishers to help them connect with online readers who are growing in numbers by the day. Other initiatives include a course in software coding for teachers in Dublin, the restoration of Bletchley Park, a hub for code-breakers during World War Two and a swanky new cultural institute in Paris to help premier art museums go digital. “Of course, Google has its own agenda to show to Europe’s political powers that they aren’t bad guys. But this gives organizations like ours the chance to do these types of projects. It wouldn’t have happened without Google,” said Michael Peters, CEO of Euronews to The New York Times.
Despite Google's efforts, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's Competition Commissioner, recently slapped Google with an official charge, accusing it of denying consumers a choice of apps and services by forcing OEMs to include Google services in their Android devices. Google claims that Android, being an open-source project, is good for customers and for competition but may find it hard to convince the EU given that such allegations were brought in by a number of directly-affected third parties. In a respite for Google, the EU last week extended the deadline for the company to respond to Android antitrust charges by another six weeks. While Google will not be able to keep requesting for extensions from the EU indefinitely, it will be interesting to see if the company will continue to invest on European culture, its start-ups and training activities if the EU rules against it in the near future.