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Tony Blair says it’s time to make Facebook and Google public utilities

The former British PM has weighed in on the debate.
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The furor around Facebook’s decision not to remove a Trump campaign ad that his Democratic rivals have deemed to be false refuses to die down – and it’s now being used as another handy argument by those pressing for more government regulation of Big Tech.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has now weighed in, criticizing Facebook as overall being too powerful for anyone’s good, and mentioning the Trump ad in particular as an example of why the giant’s legal status should be changed.

Blair said that he thought Facebook should not be the one “deciding what is a good political ad and what is a bad political ad.”

Some of the most often heard proposals regarding the way Facebook could be contained and regulated include breaking the company up, or stripping it of its status of a platform and declaring it a publisher instead. At the same time, the EU and G20 are dealing with tech giants by trying their hand at better data protection, and better tax collection.

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But according to Yahoo Finance UK, Blair approached the problem from a different angle, pushing for Facebook and other giants to be treated as public utilities.

And while this may be a different angle given the current topics, it’s not a new idea. The argument that companies like Google and Facebook should be treated as utilities was presented during the net neutrality debate in the US when a case was made that this status would help ensure equal access to all content.

However, this concern is not what Blair has in mind. Instead, his idea is clearly that the way to open these big companies up to strict government regulation is by declaring them to be public utilities. A shortcut, if you will – one that he believes is necessary.

He also said that the size and influence of the tech giants mean that, while they shouldn’t be nationalized, they must be regulated, adding that a way should be found to do this “intelligently.”

“Regulate them like they are public utilities,” Blair said, speaking at a Yahoo event in Portugal. He is convinced that this will eventually happen because politicians are ready to move in that direction. But Blair is worried that they are less well equipped to deal with other technology-related questions, such as the way it is “changing the world” through AI and other inventions.

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