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October 11, 2017

Britain Considering Regulation of Google and Facebook

Britain is giving some serious thought to the regulation of Google and Facebook as news providers rather than as platforms.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the government is studying both the role Facebook and Google play as news providers and what their legal obligations should be.

“We are looking at the role Google and Facebook play in the news environment,” the spokesman was quoted by Reuters. He added that the probe was part of a pledge by May to create a digital charter that outlines how companies and individuals should conduct themselves online.

“As part of that work we will look carefully at the roles, responsibility and legal status of the major Internet platforms.”

If May’s regulation moves forward, Facebook and Google will find themselves governed by a very strict set of rules for the content on their sites. Social networks and search engines that do not quickly deal with inappropriate content such as terrorist propaganda, child pornography or racist or violent content would face financial consequences.

May’s spokesman’s comments followed those made by Ofcom Chairman Dame Patricia Hodgson. Hodgson, during a hearing Tuesday with British members of Parliament, said Facebook and Google should be treated as publishers.

“My personal view is that they are publishers but that is only my personal view, that is not an Ofcom view,” Hodgson was quoted by The Guardian. “As I said, Ofcom is simply concerned about the integrity of news and very supportive of the debate and the steps that are being taken.”

Google and Facebook have yet to comment.