Taming Big Tech: UK government outlines plans for new technology industry regulator

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on May 7th 2022, 12:00am

The government has set out plans for a new regulatory framework in the technology sector, which aims to increase industry competitiveness and hand users more power over how their personal data is used.

Should large technology corporations such as Facebook and Google fail to adhere to new rules, then they will be penalised.

Ministers have said the new regulatory body, the Digital Markets Unit [DMU], will have the authority to fine large tech companies 10 per cent of their global turnover for non-compliance, with further penalties of five per cent of their daily global turnover per day for continual breaches.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS] said: “Senior managers [of global tech firms] will face civil penalties if their firms fail to engage properly with requests for information.”

Handing influence back to users over how their personal data is used will limit the ability of tech firms to target consumers with personalised adverts and make it easier for people to switch between different smart phone operating systems and social media accounts without losing data and messages.

The government has also suggested that the regulator will scrutinise Google’s search engine, which is the default for Apple products.

According to DCMS, the new rules are also intended to crack down on “predatory practices” on the part of larger firms, in order to improve competition by levelling the play field for smaller companies.

Large technology companies have been consistently criticised over their longstanding strategy of buying up competition through acquisitions, which sees innovative smaller companies that could threaten their market dominance absorbed into Big Tech before they can exponentially grow.

Under the government’s plans, Big Tech firms would be given a special “strategic market status”, requiring them to report potential takeovers in advance which would then be investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority before being approved.

Digital minister Chris Philp insisted that the UK was obliged to take such action to prevent large American tech firms from abusing their stranglehold over the market, which is “crowding out competition and stifling innovation.”

Furthermore, the government wants the new rules to give more power to news publishers and give the DMU the legal footing to resolve conflicts between news outlets and large tech firms.

Many local and national news organisations argue that while they struggle to operate financially, large tech firms are posting record profits and earning advertising revenue from their news coverage.

However, Big Tech companies like Meta and Google have insisted that they and news producers work in harmony, with search engines and social media sites directing web users toward news outlets.

The government has said that it will bring legislation to Parliament to implement the changes “in due course”, which will give the new regulator a statutory footing.

Photo by William Hook on Unsplash

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Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
May 7th 2022, 12:00am

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