Purportedly in a bid to fight online radicalization, the UK government has issued tech companies like Facebook and Google an ultimatum to hand over user data or face higher taxes.
VentureBeat reports that the UK government is considering imposing new taxes on companies like Facebook and Google if they refuse to share collected user data with the government and make further efforts to combat extremist content on their platforms. Ben Wallace, the UK Minister of State for Security, derided 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,” he said. “They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft-porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government.”
Wallace did not go into detail on the taxes that may be imposed on the companies, but the Sunday Times reports that the taxes would act similarly to the windfall tax imposed on privatized utilities by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Simon Milner, Facebook’s current Policy Director, challenged Wallace’s claims in a statement: “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.”
YouTube also stated that they were constantly working to fight extremist content on their platform, with a spokesperson 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.”