As promised at the end of last year, the United Kingdom has introduced his new watchdog charged with keeping big tech companies like Facebook and Google under control. The Digital Markets Unit (DMU), part of the country’s competition regulator, will oversee a new code of conduct that restricts the activities of dominant tech companies.
For now, the new watchdog is working in “ghost” mode before the implementation of the legislation conferring full powers. This means that in his current form, he remains toothless to carry out some of the drastic actions that were originally proposed. The exact date on which it will achieve full legislative power remains uncertain, with the government saying it will legislate as soon as parliamentary time permits.
The DMU could potentially be adept at blocking the activities of large tech companies that it deems detrimental to the industry at large and even fining those that do not comply with its orders. Other powers enshrined in the code include giving consumers more control over their data and removing barriers that make it difficult to use competing platforms.
At present, it is examining how the new code can be applied in practice to govern the relationship between online services and the businesses that depend on them to advertise their products or reach customers. The UK’s digital secretary has asked DMU to look specifically at how the guidelines could help create more reasonable conditions for content providers such as news publishers. Both Facebook and Google have been locked in a longstanding feud with the media over fair compensation for their articles that appear on user feeds and in search results.