UK seeks G7 consensus on digital competition after Facebook blackout



© Reuters. Britain’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden is seen outside Downing Street in London

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is seeking to build a consensus among G7 nations on how to stop large technology companies exploiting their dominance, warning that there can be no repeat of Facebook (NASDAQ:)’s one-week media blackout in Australia.

Facebook’s row with the Australian government over payment for local news, although now resolved, has increased international focus on the power wielded by tech corporations.

“We will hold these companies to account and bridge the gap between what they say they do and what happens in practice. We will prevent these firms from exploiting their dominance to the detriment of people and the businesses that rely on them,” Britain’s digital minister Oliver Dowden said on Friday.

Dowden said recent events had strengthened his view that digital markets do not currently function properly, speaking after a meeting with Facebook’s Vice-President for Global Affairs, Nick Clegg – a former British deputy prime minister.

“I put these concerns to Facebook and set out our interest in levelling the playing field to enable proper commercial relationships to be formed. We must avoid such nuclear options being taken again,” Dowden said in a statement.

Britain will host a meeting of G7 leaders in June and is seeking to build consensus there for coordinated action.

Australia has also been invited to the June meeting of the G7, which comprises the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada.

“I’ll be raising these issues with my counterparts in the G7 with a view to promoting competitive, innovative digital markets while protecting the free speech and journalism that underpin our democracy and precious liberties,” Dowden said.

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Britain is currently working on a new competition regime aimed at giving consumers more control over their data and more choice. Separately it is also introducing legislation that could regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of illegal or extremist content and bullying.

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