Britain may impose new taxes on tech giants like Google and Facebook unless they do more to combat online extremism by taking down material aimed at radicalising people or helping them to prepare attacks, the country’s security minister said.
Ben Wallace accused tech firms of being happy to sell people’s data but not to give it to the government which was being forced to spend vast sums on de-radicalisation programmes, surveillance and other counterterrorism measures.
“If they continue to be less than co-operative, we should look at things like a tax as a way of incentivising them or compensating for their inaction,” Wallace told the Sunday Times newspaper in an interview.
His quotes did not give further details on tax plans. The newspaper said that any demand would take the form of a windfall tax similar to that imposed on privatised utilities by former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 1997.
Wallace accused the tech giants of putting private profit before public safety.
“We should stop pretending that because they sit on beanbags in T-shirts they are not ruthless profiteers,” he said. “They will ruthlessly sell our details to loans and soft porn companies but not give it to our democratically elected government.”
Facebook executive Simon Milner rejected the criticisms.
“Mr Wallace is wrong to say that we put profit before safety, especially in the fight against terrorism,” he said in an emailed statement. “We’ve invested millions of pounds in people and technology to identify and remove terrorist content.”
YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it was doing more every day to tackle violent extremism.