The UK government is considering imposing new taxes on social media firms in its efforts to strong-arm companies like Facebook and Google into handing over user data as they seek to fight online radicalization.
Back in September, British Prime Minister Theresa May warned Google, Facebook, and other social media sites that the day is fast approaching when they will have two hours to purge terrorist propaganda before her government begins imposing fines.
VentureBeat reported on Monday that Ben Wallace, the UK Minister of State for Security, slammed the tech firms for selling user information but refusing to share it with state governments.
“If they continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivizing them or compensating for their inaction,” said Wallace in an interview with the Sunday Times newspaper. “We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers. They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft-porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government.”
Without going into detail about what taxes may be imposed on the companies, the Sunday Times reported that the taxes would act much like a windfall tax which was imposed on privatized utilities by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s current Policy Director, put out a statement defending her company’s practices. “Mr. Wallace is wrong to say that we put profit before safety, especially in the fight against terrorism. We’ve invested millions of pounds in people and technology to identify and remove terrorist content,” she fired back.
YouTube put out a statement as well, saying, “Over the course of 2017 we have made significant progress through investing in machine learning technology, recruiting more reviewers, building partnerships with experts and collaboration with other companies.”
In another crackdown on the social media giants, Germany has begun enforcing its new “hate speech” law, which calls on social media firms to immediately remove perceived “hate speech,” hoax stories and illegal content from their platforms or face a fine of up to 50 million euros.