UK to tax tech giants if they fail to combat online extremism


Tech giants such as Google and Facebook could face multimillion-pound tax bills if they don’t do more to combat extremism.

Speaking to the The Sunday Times, Ben Wallace, the UK’s security minister, accused tech firms of being “ruthless profiteers” and said they were failing to help security services to identify terrorists and eradicate online extremism.

Additionally, Wallace said the country’s reliance on the internet meant it was increasingly vulnerable to terrorism.

“That’s what keeps me awake at night. We are more vulnerable than at any point in the last 100 years,” he added.

Wallace went on to note that technology companies have made it too easy for terrorists to post online.

He also touched on encryption, criticising the refusal of some messaging services to give authorities access to messages sent on their platforms to organise potential attacks. This, he added, is turning the internet into an anarchic violent space.

“Because of encryption and because of radicalisation, the cost of that is heaped on law enforcement agencies.

“I have to have more human surveil­lance. It’s costing hundreds of millions of pounds. If they [internet firms] continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like tax as a way of incentivis­ing them or compen­sating for their inaction.

“Because content is not taken down as quickly as they could do, we’re having to de-radicalise people who have been radicalised. That’s costing millions. They [the firms] can’t get away with that and we should look at all options, including tax.”

The security minister denounced the businesses, saying they were prioritising profit in detriment of public safety.

“We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers.

“They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft-porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government,” said Wallace, adding that patience was running out fast and that 2018 was a time to delivery.

“We know they can do more. The time for excuses is at an end. They need to change their behaviour and start delivering,” he continued.

It’s not the first time a member of government has called for technology companies to do more to combat extremist content posted online.

PM Theresa May urged technology giants to remove extremist content within two hours following a string of devastating terror attacks in the UK last year.

Wallace’s comments also come after a select committee said last week that tech firms were not co-operating in an enquiry into Russia’s attempts to influence the Brexit referendum result.