European societies are becoming increasingly dependent on multinational platform companies, such as Google, Amazon, Meta and Apple. This dependence is increasingly perceived as problematic by governments, civil society organisations, and citizens alike, as it puts a strain on public values such as safety and democratic freedoms.
For public duties regarding, for example, education, defence, or health care, European governments are dependent on large platform companies. Europe wants to change this. Europe also aims to make data more accessible to parties in its internal market. These data are now largely in the hands of non-European multinational platform companies. The pursuit of greater digital autonomy was recently explicitly mentioned in the new Declaration on European Digital Rights and Principles, and in the Dutch government's digitalisation strategy (Rutte IV).
For years, the Rathenau Instituut has been pointing out the social risks of our digital dependence on multinational platform companies. We have observed, for example, that large platforms increasingly provide the infrastructure for online public debate. The spread of disinformation, the rise of deepfakes, and political microtargeting are putting this public debate under pressure.