Google and Facebook could face a new regulator under proposed UK plan

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In a detailed proposal released today, the United Kingdom laid out a plan for more closely regulating the tech industry, which is the latest crackdown on Big Tech in Europe.

The white paper, produced by the UK’s secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the secretary of state for the Home Department, says more decisive action is needed, noting the spread of terrorist content and other growing problems online.

“There is currently a range of regulatory and voluntary initiatives aimed at addressing these problems,” the authors write in a summary, but these have not gone far or fast enough, or been consistent enough between different companies, to keep UK users safe online.

To fight those problems, the white paper suggests that the UK government should impose new rules on tech companies like Google and Facebook, requiring them to more closely monitor content and provide more information to regulators. New rules would also require companies to take reasonable action on user complaints and do so quickly.

If companies fail to take action, they could be hit with fines imposed by a newly created regulator. The exact scope of the rules is still to be determined by UK officials.

The UK’s proposal is the latest advance in Europe’s plan to more closely regulate tech giants. In the United States, plans to regulate the tech industry at the federal level have so far stagnated, often held up by existing laws that protect platforms from liability for the content they host. Europe, by contrast, has passed regulations like the GDPR, one of the strictest moves taken yet to regulate personal data on the internet.

The UK has given new scrutiny to companies like Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The issue of content moderation took on renewed urgency after video of a mass shooting at two mosques in New Zealand rapidly spread around the world last month.

Parliament will soon debate how to implement the proposal. Member of Parliament Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, praised the paper. “There is an urgent need for this new regulatory body to be established as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.