MAIL ON SUNDAY COMMENT: Tax-dodging web giants must be tamed – and Rishi Sunak’s the man to do it
From time to time, every democratic government confronts over-mighty subjects – organisations or corporations which are so powerful that they threaten the supremacy of Parliament and even challenge the rule of law.
The most recent example of this in Britain was the extraordinary power of the trades unions in Britain from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Other free countries have faced similar challenges from immensely rich and powerful business interests.
There is only one answer to such power – to use the authority of democracy and the courts to challenge and tame it, and to compel these giants to live inside the bounds of law and democracy.
As The Mail on Sunday reports today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is making a serious effort to tackle web giants by pushing for international moves to tax the super-profits of Facebook and the other internet leviathans
This is never easy, and it takes exceptional political leadership to succeed, as Margaret Thatcher showed when she took on and defeated the unions after 1979.
Now we have the web giants. As The Mail on Sunday reports today, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, is making a serious effort to tackle them by pushing for international moves to tax the super-profits of Facebook and the other internet leviathans.
But this is just a beginning. These mega-corporations currently enjoy a sort of weightlessness, sidestepping the taxation and legal requirements of many nations. Yet they could not exist without the safety, order, infrastructure and education which tax pays for.
Powerful sovereign countries such as ours must set an example to the rest of the world by ending this situation. Many people agree with this in theory, but in practice, the influence of these monsters is such that it needs huge resolve to take them on.
Sir Nicholas Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, is perhaps the perfect example of a well-intentioned member of our liberal elite.
He once rightly criticised Facebook for paying too little tax. Now he takes a different line. We publish today the outcomes of Freedom of Information requests showing that Sir Nicholas has been involved in lobbying against measures which would increase the tax the company pays, and defended it from charges that it provides a platform for repulsive self-harm images.
Sir Nicholas Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, is perhaps the perfect example of a well-intentioned member of our liberal elite. He once rightly criticised Facebook for paying too little tax. Now he takes a different line
These companies have helped transform the world for the better for millions, speeding commerce to an extent that would have been unbelievable 25 years ago.
But this has come at a great price. They censor and they abuse their monopoly powers.
They face accusations of suppressing material, including some produced by reputable and successful operations such as our internet stablemate, MailOnline, because it offends their woke groupthink. They make profitable use of content created by others, riding for free on the work and investment of rivals.
It is ironic that companies which began as adventurous and rebellious have come to this. Perhaps most disturbing of all, while censoring opinions they dislike, they continue to provide a vehicle which allows the distribution of many kinds of damaging and upsetting videos.
Yes, they try to fight against it. But are their efforts good enough? Facebook, for instance, claims to remove almost all child abuse material uploaded on to its site. But its ability to track who has seen the content or how long it is on display is in doubt. And it is not known how much goes undetected.
Similar doubts must surround the appalling amount of material dealing with self-harm and suicide, which is now seeking to make its way into homes – and minds – via the web.
So Mr Sunak has much work to do, and we wish him well in his efforts to get widespread backing for this badly needed initiative.
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