Duopoly: Government proposes new tax on internet giants to curb spread of porn and cyber bullying

The Government has proposed a new tax on tech giants like Google and Facebook to fund measures to crackdown on “cyber bullying, trolling and under-age access to porn”.

The measures are intended, the Government said, to make Britain “the safest place in the world to be online”.

A special levy for technology companies could open the door for a new tax on them to fund public service journalism. The NUJ and Media Reform Coalition have proposed a 1 per cent levy on tech companies to fund independent and non-profit journalism.

Leaders in the UK news industry have long argued for a more level playing field with technology platforms who compete with them for advertising.

The Government’s green paper consultation document proposes: “An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms​.”

This has been one of the concerns raised by the Press Gazette Duopoly campaign, which aims to stop Google and Facebook from destroying journalism by taking nearly all the digital advertising spend in the UK.

Google and Facebook are believed to take the majority of the £10bn a year spend on digital advertising in the UK – much more than every news publisher combined.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said: “The internet has been an amazing force for good, but it has caused undeniable suffering and can be an especially harmful place for children and vulnerable people.

“Behaviour that is unacceptable in real life is unacceptable on a computer screen.

“We need an approach to the internet that protects everyone without restricting growth and innovation in the digital economy.

“Our ideas are ambitious – and rightly so. Collaboratively, government, industry, parents and communities can keep citizens safe online, but only by working together.”

Consultation on the Internet Safety Green Paper will close at midday on Thursday 7 December 2017. The Government expects to provide a response to the consultation in early 2018.

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