PM is 'giving in' to tech giants in their bid to avoid paying media
PM is ‘giving in’ to tech giants like Google and Facebook in their bid to avoid paying media outlets to use their news
- Ministers are in the process of introducing a new body, the Digital Markets Unit
- Downing Street may allow them to launch appeals against their decisions
Rishi Sunak is personally leading a drive to water down plans to regulate the excesses of tech giants, due to his ‘admiration’ for the companies, senior Whitehall sources have said.
Ministers are in the process of introducing a new body, the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), to make companies such as Google and Facebook pay other media outlets for using their stories and stop them from using their global market dominance to stifle competition over digital advertising.
But after intensive lobbying from the firms, Downing Street may allow them to launch expensive and time-consuming appeals against the decisions of the new body, which will be given legal powers by the Digital Markets Bill currently going through Parliament.
The body will have the power to impose fines on online firms to prevent customers or companies from being treated unfairly and to force the tech firms to allow smaller rivals access to their vast troves of data.
The DMU would also investigate the algorithms used by search engines, such as Google, which many news organisations believe are manipulated to direct search enquiries disproportionately towards Left-leaning news organisations, and filter how people access news to the detriment of quality, paid-for journalism.
Rishi Sunak is personally leading a drive to water down plans to regulate the excesses of tech giants, due to his ‘admiration’ for the companies, senior Whitehall sources have said
A source said Mr Sunak was ‘furious’ when Home Secretary Suella Braverman (pictured) wrote earlier this year to Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta, to express her concerns over the company’s plans to introduce end-to-end encryption without appropriate safeguards for children
Under the existing plans, only quick – and relatively cheap – challenges to DMU rulings would be allowed, similar to a Judicial Review process.
But the proposal to allow wider appeals would make it far harder for smaller companies to ensure that social media companies pay fairly for news publishers’ content because of the expensive and time-consuming process required.
A senior Whitehall source said Mr Sunak – who owns a £5 million apartment in California, the centre of the global tech industry – was ‘instinctively open’ to the companies’ views. ‘He has made no secret of his admiration for the tech giants, seeing them as a massive driver of employment,’ the source said.
QUENTIN LETTS: Don’t get too excited just yet, but we’ve had the first signs that Rishi Sunak’s Tories may have the guts to wrench us out of the ghastly inertia of modern politics, READ MORE
The source said Mr Sunak was ‘furious’ when Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote earlier this year to Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta, which owns Facebook, to express her concerns over the company’s plans to introduce end-to-end encryption without appropriate safeguards for children.
Tech companies such as Meta play an important role in supporting UK law enforcement agencies, and Ms Braverman fears that Meta’s plans may hinder efforts to detect instances of child grooming on their messaging services.
An industry source said: ‘If the plans are watered down to allow full legal hearings it will be hideously expensive and time-consuming. That doesn’t matter to the platforms, which have unlimited funds. The fear is that the DMU will inevitably be less ambitious as a result.’
Google and Facebook took about four-fifths of the annual digital advertising spend in the UK. Last night, senior Tory MP Damian Collins – a former Digital Minister – told the MoS: ‘I would be very concerned about anything that would allow the big tech companies to bog down the process.’
Mr Collins, who was also chairman of the Commons’ Media Committee, added that whatever system was put in place ‘needs to expedite the process’ with the regulator able to make ‘quick decisions’.
The News Media Association, which represents national, regional and local news publishers, raised fears that watering down the Bill would leave the DMU ‘toothless’ in the face of big tech. Chief executive Owen Meredith said the current plans ‘will give the regulator the tools to tackle entrenched market power in the digital economy, where a small number of dominant tech giants abuse power to their own advantage – at the expense of consumers and businesses.
He said that ‘preserving the Judicial Review appeals standard is essential to ensure the system works effectively’.
‘Any change to the Judicial Review standard risks leaving the regulator toothless.
A Government spokesman said: ‘A free press is the cornerstone of a thriving democracy. That is why we have put in place clear legal protections to ensure the press can carry out its vital role without fear of prosecution.’
Source: Read Full Article