Queen's Speech: No Trump, But Levies On Facebook And Google Get Green Light

Parliament is officially open now that the Queen has delivered her much-awaited, and delayed, speech that sets out what her Government intends to do over the next two years. It would normally be one year, but with so much to do in the break up with the EU, a two-year programme has been outlined.

In the UK there has been massive speculation over what would make the speech and which parts of the Conservative manifesto would be dropped. Ironically, one of the biggest omissions was a person -- President Donald Trump. Mention was given to a state visit from the King and Queen of Spain, but Trump's proposed visit did not make the speech. One reason given was that no firm date had been fixed, so it could not be mentioned. Media observers are wondering whether the controversial visit is not being delayed or downplayed.

Perhaps it was the understandable interest in Brexit that steered commentators away from one very interesting part of the speech. It was just a couple of lines, but the government let it be known that it would press ahead with its Digital Charter that would make the UK the safest place to go online and conduct digital business. I'm paraphrasing, but the point is the Digital Charter idea, where the UK sets out standards for online publishing, which it hopes other countries will sign up, is a go.

There's no real detail as to what it will look like, but the Queen's speech did mention that her government would also take steps to stamp out extremism so it has no place to hide and would also review counter-terror measures.

The point is that Internet companies, including the American tech giants, can expect to receive a code of conduct over the next two years setting out what the government believes is a responsible way to behave. No doubt there will be enforceable fines if extremist content is not removed in a timely manner. 

An interesting addition to the chapter in the manifesto that deals with the Digital Charter insisted that the government would make the social media giants pay a levy to cover the cost of education programmes to raise awareness of the harm that the sites can cause. In other words, then, social giants are going to find it tougher to do business in the UK within the next two years and they're going to be asked to pay for an awareness programme.

Even tougher still, the Government has vowed to bring in a data protection law that is designed to give greater protection to Britons which, I suspect, will largely be the GDPR that will become law in the UK in just under a year's time anyway, perhaps with a couple of additions. The most noticeable is a provision for consumers to ask social media companies to ditch all data they hold on them before they turned 18.

The bulk of the speech was understandably given to outlining that Brexit would require new immigration, trade and customs laws and that the Government would be out and about looking for new business, beyond the EU. 

Marketers would also be interested to hear that would be legislation to tackle the gender pay gap as well as major reform of the the country's tech education, aimed at ensuring businesses get the highly skilled workers they require. Again, however, no detail, so we'll have to wait and see.

All in all, it wasn't a great day for Facebook, Twitter and Google. Tougher regulation, a levy to pay for better awareness and tighter privacy rules await.

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