News Analysis: Daughter of Italy's former PM casts light on Internet giants with criticisms

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-09 02:32:36|Editor: yan
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by Eric J. Lyman

ROME, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Marina Berlusconi, the eldest child of Italy's former prime minister and billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, shined new light on growing issues surrounding the role multi-national Internet giants have on modern economies.

The 51-year-old mother of two who heads the family editorial holding company Fininvest garnered headlines across Italy when she lashed out at five large Internet companies: retailer amazon, device maker Apple, social media giant Facebook, search firm Google, and software maker Microsoft.

"As an editor, I want to be able to compete with these companies on equal footing," she said in an interview with the Turin newspaper "La Stampa".

"And as a mother, I fear the world is becoming too opaque. The Internet giants scare me as a manager, as a mother, and as a citizen."

Internet giants have been in the spotlight for some time in Italy, where they have faced charges of privacy or antitrust abuses and have been handed millions in tax bills.

Berlusconi's criticisms were varied. She charged that some world leaders -- she mentioned former U.S. President Barack Obama by name -- equated the strength of these companies with modernity and progress, making them more difficult to examine objectively.

She said the strategy of some companies to avoid tax obligations by basing their headquarters in low-tax jurisdictions was "unacceptable", and she said the companies were warping the way people interact with each other and the world.

Additionally, Berlusconi said the rules being used to confront these risks are badly out of date.

"Maybe with a little imagination we find a way to face this unprecedented phenomena without relying on decades-old rules," she said.

"She's not wrong," Maurizio Mensi, who heads LawLab, which focuses on digital rights at Rome's LUISS University, told Xinhua. "But there is very little a single country like Italy can do on its own."

Mensi said that the European Union strategy of trying to limit the influence of big Internet companies by assuring fair competition and keeping regulatory structures up to date is ultimately the best solution. "Don't forget that every European Union country is facing similar challenges."

Rocco Panetta, an attorney and senior partner with the law firm Panetta & Associati, agreed.

"These are issues that can only be confronted on a European level," Panetta said in an interview. "They are complex and require similar rules to be enforced on both sides of international borders."

None of the commentators said they expected Berlusconi's comments to have a direct impact on Italian or European legislation, though Panetta said she could help inform Italian citizens of the challenges the country faces on this front.

"She is from a high-profile family, but, unlike her father, she isn't a person who seeks the spotlight," Panetta said. "The fact that she chose this topic to speak out against could make some people who wouldn't otherwise pay attention start to notice what is happening."