Britain Pushes Tough Tech Rules Under New Digital Watchdog

LONDON — Big tech companies like Google and Facebook parent Meta would have to comply with tough British rules under a new digital watchdog aimed at giving consumers more choice online — or face the threat of big fines.

The United Kingdom government on Friday outlined the powers it’s planning for its Digital Markets Unit, a regulator set up last year to take on the dominance of tech giants. It didn’t specify when the rules would take effect, saying only that legislation would come “in due course.”

As a result of growing concern over their excessive influence and the proliferation of harmful material on their platforms, authorities in Britain and Europe are leading the worldwide push to crack down on tech companies.

New rules would be enforced by the U.K. Watchdog to allow people to easily switch between iPhones, Androids, and social media accounts. People won’t lose their data or messages.

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The government’s digital department said smartphone users would get a wider choice of search engines and more control over how their data is used. Technology companies will have to inform small businesses doing a lot online of changes in algorithmic that may affect their revenue and traffic.

According to the government, the watchdog would also be empowered to resolve pricing disputes between news media publishers and online platforms in order to make sure that content companies are paid fair.

Companies in tech could be fined up to 10% of annual global revenues for violating the rules. For the largest companies, this would reach into the billions.

Google and Meta have not responded to comment requests within an hour.

On top of the U.K. safety rules, a new online safety law is being created. It would grant users greater power to block anonymous trolling and raise requirements that digital platforms take down illicit material such as child abuse or terror posts.

Similar laws are in development for the European Union. The 27-nation bloc’s Digital Services Act will require big tech companies to police their platforms more strictly for harmful or illegal content and services, while its Digital Markets Act is aimed at reining in online “gatekeepers.” Both threaten big fines for violations.

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