UK to review Google, Facebook role in news

UK to review Google, Facebook role in news
© Getty Images

The United Kingdom is looking at Facebook and Google’s role in news and what that could mean in terms of more regulation.

“We are looking at the role Google and Facebook play in the news environment,” a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “As part of that work we will look carefully at the roles, responsibility and legal status of the major internet platforms.”

Following recent terror attacks, May has criticized internet companies for not doing more to prevent terrorists from using their platforms to organize and communicate. May has also floated regulating the internet.

Tuesday’s statement from May’s office comes after the chairman of the Office of Communications, or Ofcom, Britain's media regulator, said she believes Facebook and Google are actually publishers and thus subject to the same regulations as news outlets.

“My personal view is that they are publishers but that is only my personal view, that is not an Ofcom view,” Ofcom Chairman Dame Patricia Hodgson told British members of Parliament during a hearing on Tuesday, according to The Guardian. “As I said, Ofcom is simply concerned about the integrity of news and very supportive of the debate and the steps that are being taken.”

During the meeting Hodgson also revealed that Ofcom’s board had discussed how the internet could be regulated last week.

“We don’t have an evolved position on it but interestingly it was one of the sessions that the board looked at in its annual strategy day last week. We will contribute some thinking and some work. I mean, this again is a political decision, it’s a matter for government,” she said.

Ofcom’s chief executive, Sharon White, said that she’s less convinced this type of regulation is appropriate but would like to see more oversight from technology companies whose platforms have been manipulated by terrorists and Russian actors.

“We feel strongly that the platforms as publishers have got more responsibility to ensure the right content,” White said. “I don’t think it’s a question of regulation, which I think has a fuzzy boundary with censorship, but I think we feel strongly that the platforms ought to be doing more to ensure their content can be trusted.”