Commentary

UK To Decide On A US Or EU Vision Of The Internet

So that's the price of a US trade deal. The authorities from the other side of the pond have made it clear what they're looking for as the UK enters its last week of being properly within the EU.

The Telegraph broke the news today that a major stumbling block will be how the tech giants are legally viewed. This column has already covered several times how the proposed Digital Services Tax of 2% would be a massive bone of contention if it were introduced in April, as planned. President Trump has already forced France to back down on a similar levy, in the face of retaliatory tariffs. If the UK doesn't back down too, we know where we stand.

Today we have two very interesting pieces of news. As The Telegraph outlines, the US authorities will seek an assurance -- as they have done from other trading partners -- that the tech giants will not be considered as publishers.

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In other words, the tech giants cannot be help legally responsible for what appears on their sites. They are effectively the recipients of posts, rather than their publisher. 

As the UK appears to be be preparing to appoint an online regulator and the EU seems set to increase online regulation, the US is effectively telling the UK that a trade deal hinges on the tech giants being treated in the UK as they are in the US, and most definitely how they are likely to find they are legally seen in the EU.

It will be a massive consideration as the UK decides the way forward on internet regulation, coming as it does in the wake of Trump's threat to France on tariffs winning the President a foreign trade victory. 

The other piece of interesting news, which shows the direction of travel, comes from the BBC today. It is covering a Government announcement that Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive will not be implemented in the UK once the country has exited the EU. It's the controversial part of the incoming law that would hold the tech giants responsible for removing pieces of copyrighted material if account holders put them up on their timelines. 

You can imagine that from a tech giant perspective, this hugely increases their moderation role and would get them involved in all manner of copyright disputes. It is hardly surprising that they would not wish to implement the new law and would seek official support in encouraging the UK to seek a more American view of the internet.

And that appears to the direction of travel for the UK. Article 13 is dropped, and the path is now clear for the tech giants to be seen as walls other people post on, rather than publishers responsible for the millions of posts made on their services every day. 

The UK has a big digital decision to make as it leaves the EU at the end of the month, and it would appear that Boris' Government is prepared to consider the American vision of the internet, rather than the regulation-heavy position of the EU.

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