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The Tories want to have a lot more power over what you do and say on the internet

Posted by
Tom Mendelsohn
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What with all the privacy back doors written into the so-called Snooper’s Charter (officially, the Investigatory Powers Act) last year, we’ve known for a while that this particular Tory party really wants to know exactly what you’re up to at all times on the internet.

But a promise thrown in at the end of their new election manifesto goes a stage further – they want to take on the likes of Google and Facebook and reign in their power.

"Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet," it reads. "We disagree."

There’s not much more detail than that, but it’s vague enough to leave scope for a potential Conservative government to have a lot more say in what we do and say on the internet. And while the line may seem like an afterthought, BuzzFeed News spoke to Conservative advisers who say a future Tory government “would be keen to rein in the growing power of Google and Facebook” – the latter of which refused to decrypt its WhatsApp service for law enforcement in the wake of the Westminster terror attack in March.

The Tories want to restrict the power of the likes of Google and Facebook in their next government

A picture of what a Tory internet might look like begins to appear as you read between the lines of their manifesto. At one point it says “our starting point is that online rules should reflect those that govern our lives offline. It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically."

Theresa May apparently wants to turn Britain into "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet". Considering the heavy-handedness of the Great Firewall of China – China’s severe internet restrictions – that’s a powerful boast, and one which could worry people who don’t enjoy the idea of law enforcement having access to their sexts.

Here’s another manifesto promise: "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law."

The party also plans to restrict access to adult content: "We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm".