Cairncross review: Google and Facebook News need Regulation to Restore Trust

The Cairncross review, commissioned by the government, said tech giants should have a news quality obligation.

Google and Facebook should be made to improve trust in the content they host, a review has found.

The Cairncross review, commissioned by the government, recommended that tech giants should have a “news quality obligation” which would be overseen by a regulator.

The wide-ranging report examined the future of the UK news industry.

It made a number of recommendations, including encouraging tax breaks for “public interest” journalism and direct funding from taxpayer and private sources for local public interest news.

The review concluded that a lack of market interest in the public interest news, such as reporting on local courts and councils, may mean government intervention may be the sole solution.

It also recommended that broadcasting regulator Ofcom should conduct an exploration of the market impact of BBC News.

The review said tech companies such as Google and Facebook absorb the lion’s share of online advertising revenues, which makes it difficult for traditional publishers, such as newspapers, to compete.

To combat this, the review suggested the creation of new codes of conduct, including rules such as not imposing their own advertising software on news publishers. It would be overseen by a regulator.

“While each platform should devise solutions which best fit the needs of their particular users, their efforts should be placed under regulatory scrutiny – this task is too important to leave entirely to the judgement of commercial entities,” the review said.

It continued: “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.”

Chaired by former senior journalist and academic Dame Frances Cairncross, the review was commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May to detail the sustainability of quality journalism as industry revenue falls.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright welcomed the findings. He said a number of the recommendations could be acted on immediately, while others would need “further careful consideration”.

He added: “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.”

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