Date
16 July 2018
Security Minister Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government, which was being forced to spend vast sums on counter-terrorism measures. Photo: Reuters
Security Minister Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government, which was being forced to spend vast sums on counter-terrorism measures. Photo: Reuters

UK eyes taxes to get tech giants to do more to fight extremism

Britain may impose new taxes on tech giants like Google and Facebook unless they do more to combat online extremism by taking down material aimed at radicalizing people or helping them to prepare attacks, Reuters reports, citing a UK newspaper’s interview with the country’s security minister.

Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government which was being forced to spend vast sums on de-radicalization programs, surveillance and other counter-terrorism measures, the news agency said.

“If they continue to be less than cooperative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivizing them or compen­sating for their inaction,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper in an interview.

His quotes did not give further details on tax plans. The newspaper said that any demand would take the form of a windfall tax similar to that imposed on privatized utilities by former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 1997.

Wallace accused the tech giants of putting private profit before public safety.

“We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers,” he said. “They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft-porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government.”

Facebook executive Simon Milner rejected the criticisms. 

Mr. Wallace is wrong to say that we put profit before safety, especially in the fight against terrorism,” Milner said in an emailed statement. “We’ve invested millions of pounds in people and technology to identify and remove terrorist content.”

YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it was doing more every day to tackle violent extremism.

“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,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.

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RC/CG

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