New UK regulator set to curb big tech's power over news publishers

April 6, 2021 7:12 PM EDT

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Google is seen on a building at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie near Paris, France, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau


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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's new regulator for tech giants Facebook and Google launches on Wednesday with an initial remit to see if a code of conduct could improve the balance of power between the platforms and news publishers.

The Digital Markets Unit (DMU), based in the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has been set up to stop big tech companies abusing their market dominance after the competition regulator said existing rules were not enough.

The power and reach of big tech has grown faster than governments' ability to keep them in check.

A row, now resolved, between Facebook and the Australian government in February over payment for local news highlighted the disparity.

The tech company blacked out news content in response to planned legislation, a move condemned by publishers and politicians in multiple countries.

Britain's Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said he had asked the DMU to look at how a code could govern the relationships between platforms and content providers, such as news publishers, to ensure they were as fair and reasonable as possible.

"The Digital Markets Unit has launched and I've asked it to begin by looking at the relationships between platforms and content providers, and platforms and digital advertisers," he said in a statement.

"This will pave the way for the development of new digital services and lower prices, give consumers more choice and control over their data, and support our news industry, which is vital to freedom of expression and our democratic values."

The unit was set up after the CMA concluded last year that Google had significant market power in search and in search advertising, and Facebook had significant market power in social media and in display advertising.

Britain said the unit would coordinate with international partners that are also grappling with tech regulation.

Dowden will host digital and tech ministers in April to discuss coordination on information sharing and joining up regulatory and policy approaches, the government said.

The DMU is awaiting government legislation to give it the powers it requires.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Barbara Lewis)



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