Making Science

UK to regulate tech giants through dedicated agency

Tyrone Stewart


The UK government has plans to introduce a unit dedicated to regulating the largest tech companies and creating a fairer digital landscape.

The Digital Markets Unit, which will be housed within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), will work with the likes of Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office to create a code that will govern the behaviour of dominant online players, such as Google and Facebook.

“Digital platforms like Google and Facebook make a significant contribution to our economy and play a massive role in our day-to-day lives – whether it’s helping us stay in touch with our loved ones, share creative content or access the latest news,” said UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma. “But the dominance of just a few big tech companies is leading to less innovation, higher advertising prices and less choice and control for consumers.

“Our new, pro-competition regime for digital markets will ensure consumers have choice, and mean smaller firms aren’t pushed out.”

The code has yet to be unveiled but can be expected ahead of the unit getting to work in April 2021. However, the government has provided a preview of what’s to come.

The code will set expectations for the ‘acceptable behaviour’ of major platforms and seek more transparency from these platforms about the services they provide and how they use consumer data. The code will also take charge of the relationships between publishers and platforms in order to help preserve the quality of journalism and news publishing and may look to help small businesses by ensuring tech giants aren’t applying unfair policies.

“I’m unashamedly pro-tech and the services of digital platforms are positively transforming the economy - bringing huge benefits to businesses, consumers and society,” said UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.

“But there is growing consensus in the UK and abroad that the concentration of power among a small number of tech companies is curtailing growth of the sector, reducing innovation and having negative impacts on the people and businesses that rely on them. It’s time to address that and unleash a new age of tech growth.”