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Tech giants face tough tests in 2018

Fibre optic cables carrying internet providers
Fibre optic cables carrying internet providers   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Mike Segar
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2018 is expected to be a tough year for the world's technology giants as pressure mounts over their tax arrangements and efforts to fight online extremism.

Britain says it may impose taxes on social media firms unless they do more to take down material aimed at radicalising people or helping them to prepare attacks.

The UK security minister has accused tech firms of putting private profit before public safety by not sharing information with "democratically-elected governments."

It's thought a punitive measure may take the form of a windfall tax - similar to that imposed on privatised utilities.

UK Security Minister threatens to impose punitive tax on tech giants

Other European governments, particularly those hit by militant attacks, have also urged internet firms to boost their efforts or face legislation.

Germany has now enforced a law against online hate speech; but the European Commission is keen to avoid a patchwork of national laws on the issue, and favours a self-regulatory approach.

It wants companies to use automatic detection technologies more and act faster on referrals from member states and Europol.

But social media companies say they've significantly boosted their resources to take down violent and extremist content.

Meanwhile we can expect several tussles in the courts with some giants accused of failing to pay billions of euros in taxes and of benefitting from illegal state aid.

Other tech firms will be taking on the Commission to appeal EU rulings for allegedly abusing their market dominance.

Western tech firms are also coming under increasing scrutiny in Asian markets. Vietnam has unveiled a new, 10,000-strong military cyber warfare unit to counter so-called "wrong" views on the web, amid a widening crackdown on critics of the one-party state.

China has also recently told tech giants that they too must comply with the country's censorship rules if they want access to its 751-million internet users.