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Japan to introduce bill to ensure fair online business competition

Photo: REUTERS file. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

Pan Pacific Agency | COMMUICATION AGENCY FOR PACIFICA REGIONS

TOKYO, Nov 13, 2019, Kyodo. The Japanese government on Tuesday decided on an outline of new laws that would tighten controls on U.S. digital giants and other online businesses as concerns mount that their dominant positions hinder fair competition and protection of personal data, officials said, Japan Today reported.

A bill to be submitted to the Diet next year will seek to mandate that Google LLC, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc, collectively known as GAFA, as well as other digital business firms, disclose how they set rules on displaying search results, government officials said.

The government also seeks to oblige IT firms to report how they are managing their websites on a regular basis and hopes to eventually expand the scope of the rules to regulate online advertising linked to search engines and social networking services.

“While the new law will ask (digital platformers) to improve transparency of their transactions by disclosing information such as reasons for declining to do business (with certain companies), the new rules will respect the autonomy of the operators as much as possible so as to avoid hindering innovation,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a government meeting later Tuesday.

There have been concerns that the major digital companies like Google and Amazon present search results in favor of certain products and services, distorting search neutrality.

Earlier Tuesday, a government panel exchanged views on the envisioned legislation with senior officials of GAFA.

Their representatives expressed their understanding that the new law is required to enhance transparency in their business transactions during the meeting, a government official told reporters.

But some voiced worries, with Adam Cohen, Google’s global head of economics and competition, airing concerns about Japan’s request for regular reports on GAFA businesses, the official said.

Amazon also questioned the regular reporting requirement, while Facebook expressed concerns about some rules being tighter than those of the European Union.

The government has already heard the views of domestic information technology firms Rakuten Inc. and Yahoo Japan Corp.

As for the protection of personal data, the government will revise the personal information protection law to allow individuals to request digital firms to delete or suspend the use of their data. The law currently regulates only the handling of data collected by illicit means.

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