Victoria Newton urges government to not bow to pressure from big tech firms

Posted on: November 2, 2023 by Claire Meadows

The government must uphold its promise to repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act as well as ensuring it does not bow to pressure from big tech firms in discussions around how to better regulate social media channels, the Sun’s Editor has said.

In a wide-ranging speech given at a House of Commons event attended by the Society of Editors to mark Journalism Matters Week, Victoria Newton spoke of the power of journalism as a force for good as well as the challenges the industry faces from “unregulated social media channels”, the rise of AI and “insidious creeping privacy laws”.

Referencing a government summit taking place at Bletchley Park this week to discuss the opportunities and challenges faced by Artificial Intelligence, she said: “The expansion of AI creates both threats and opportunities for every company, but also front-line journalism.

“Innovation in the industry is vital – it’s how we’ll all grow our audiences and future proof our newsrooms in a challenging market. Large Language Models currently derive content from news publishers, taking all the benefits from sharing trusted regulated journalism, without any payment or crucially, our permission.”

She added: “We welcome Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer’s promise of support for our press as the use of AI develops. Original journalism everywhere should be protected, as should the publishers that spend and invest in journalism.”

Looking at challenges and threats to the industry, Newton welcomed government action to tackle the threat of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and called on ministers to fulfil promises to repeal the widely-criticised Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.

She said: “Ministers must uphold their commitment to repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 – a commitment made in the Conservative manifestos in 2017 and 2019. If S40 was ever enacted, it would have a truly chilling impact on journalism, and the work of smaller publications and local newspapers in particular.”

In relation to digital platforms, Newton urged the government to hold firm to its attempts to level the playing field between platforms and publishers.

She added: “It’s also important that the Government holds to its position on the introduction of the Digital Markets Unit. We are told that, after intensive lobbying from the big tech firms, Ministers may allow them to launch expensive and time-consuming appeals against the decisions of the new body.

“This risks seriously undermining the impact of DMU, which is being given legal powers by the Digital Markets Bill. Ministers must stick to the existing plans to allow only quick but robust – and relatively cheap – challenges to DMU rulings.”

The full speech can be read here