I’ll rein in tech giants and protect free speech: Rishi Sunak’s pledge on Britain’s digital future 

I’ll rein in the tech giants and protect free speech: Rishi Sunak’s pledge on Britain’s digital future

  • Sunak pledged to push through Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill 
  • Bill aims to prevent big tech companies from exploiting consumers and rivals
  • The former Chancellor also said he aims to repeal laws which ‘stifle free speech’ 

Rishi Sunak has pledged to bring forward key legislation to rein in the power of big tech firms and protect the digital economy.

The Tory leadership contender yesterday committed to giving the draft Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill parliamentary priority this autumn.

The Bill will introduce tough laws to stop the world’s biggest search engines and social media platforms exploiting consumers and rivals.

It will also empower the Digital Markets Unit, a watchdog set up to address the dominance of the tech giants, particularly in digital advertising. Mr Sunak said this would include measures to ensure tech firms paid a fair price to news publishers for content.

The former chancellor also promised to honour a Tory manifesto pledge to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which he said ‘seeks to coerce the Press and stifle free speech’.

Conservative Party Leadership Candidate Rishi Sunak leaves Ealing TV Studios in west London after attending a TV debate, July 26

Conservative Party Leadership Candidate Rishi Sunak leaves Ealing TV Studios in west London after attending a TV debate, July 26

He said the Act, which would force newspapers to pay legal costs in defamation and privacy cases for both sides no matter the outcome – unless they agree to join a state-sponsored regulator – will be taken off the statute books ‘as a matter of urgency’ before the next election.

Mr Sunak made the commitments in a letter yesterday to Owen Meredith of the News Media Association, which represents local, regional and national publishers.

The would-be prime minister said he strongly backed the ‘vital’ newspaper industry and acknowledged its long-term sustainability could not be taken for granted.

He added: ‘I support the growth of digital industries, but believe we will only achieve a thriving digital economy in the UK with properly functioning markets.

‘I am therefore happy to confirm that I would take forward the promised digital markets legislation this autumn, including measures to ensure fair terms between publishers and platforms, if I am selected as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.’

Announcing the Bill in the Queen’s Speech in May, the Government said it would aim to better protect Britons from online scams and rip-offs, such as fake reviews and subscription traps.

It will also empower the DMU to rein in the dominance of tech giants such as Google and Facebook – particularly in digital advertising, where it has a detrimental impact on high-quality journalism.

Sunak said he would implement legislation to empower the Digital Markets Unit to break the dominance of tech giants and prevent them from exploiting consumers and rivals

Sunak said he would implement legislation to empower the Digital Markets Unit to break the dominance of tech giants and prevent them from exploiting consumers and rivals

Under the Bill, the DMU would be able to force online giants to comply with codes of conduct – on penalty of fines of up to 10 per cent of their global turnover.

Mr Sunak also committed to repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – a Conservative Party manifesto commitment in 2017 – ‘as a matter of urgency’. Under the measure, news publishers would be forced to pay both sides’ legal costs in defamation and privacy legal cases whether they win or lose in court – unless they sign up to a Press regulator backed by a royal charter.

The Tories have previously said that the law, which has been vehemently opposed by Press groups and Press freedom campaigners, undermined ‘the essential role of local newspapers in speaking truth to power’.

It is on the statute books but yet to be activated.

The most recent Queen’s Speech contained plans for a Media Bill that would repeal the law.

Mr Sunak wrote: ‘It’s vital that we remove this measure which seeks to coerce the Press and stifle free speech ahead of the next general election.’

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