Facebook and Google News Must be Regulated, Cairncross Review Says
News content hosted on Facebook and Google platforms should be subject to tougher regulations, the review concluded.
A proposed new regulator could force tech giants to ensure hosted news content is trustworthy, a government report says.
The Cairncross Review, undertaken by Dame Frances Cairncross, was launched by the UK Government in 2018 with the aim of investigating the sustainability of journalism in the UK.
The review makes a number of recommendations. In particular, it says that companies such as Facebook or Google should have a “news quality obligation” and be subject to tougher regulation.
Dame Cairncross commented: “The proposals I have put forward have the potential to improve the outlook for high-quality journalism. They are designed to encourage new models to emerge, with the help of innovation not just in technology but in business systems and journalistic techniques.”
Other recommendations include an Ofcom-led review of the BBC’s impact on the broader news industry in the UK, tax relief for “public interest” reporting and taxpayer-funded local journalism.
Google and Facebook control a significant share of online advertising revenues, which creates a difficult environment for traditional publishers and news outlets to compete, the review concludes.
To combat this, it recommends the creation of new codes of conduct, which include rules to prevent them from imposing their own ad software on news publishers.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should play a key role to ensure fair competition in the online advertising market.
“While each platform should devise solutions which best fit the needs of their particular users, their efforts should be placed under regulatory scrutiny,” the review says. “This task is too important to leave entirely to the judgement of commercial entities.”
The review adds: “If it becomes clear that efforts have not increased the reach of high-quality news, or had a measurable impact on the quality of people’s engagement with online news, it may be necessary to impose stricter provisions.”
Tech giants should continue to help readers understand how reliable news coverage is. Facebook, in particular, has been mired in repeated scandals over fake news and misinformation.
The social media firm has taken steps to ensure transparency in advertising on the platform, as well as bringing in fact-checking organisations to ensure that news coverage is factual.
In late 2018, Facebook announced a partnership with UK-based fact-checking organisation, Full Fact, to tackle fake news on the platform. Two other organisations – The Association Press and Snopes – pulled out of Facebook’s fact-checking initiative earlier this month, however.
DCMS Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright, said he welcomed the Cairncross recommendations and that action can be taken on certain issues immediately.
“A healthy democracy needs high-quality journalism to thrive and this report sets out the challenges to putting our news media on a stronger and more sustainable footing, in the face of changing technology and rising disinformation,” he said.
“There are some things we can take action on immediately while others will need further careful consideration with stakeholders on the best way forward,” Wright added.