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TECHNOLOGY

Germany teams up with France in bid to save EU digital tax proposal

France and Germany jointly agreed a scaled-back version of an EU digital tax Tuesday, that they hoped would break significant opposition to the plan amongst bloc partners.

Germany teams up with France in bid to save EU digital tax proposal
Countries, including France and Germany, want tech giants like Google to pay their fair share in EuropePhoto: DPA

The idea, revealed to AFP by a European source, will be formally proposed by Paris and Berlin to EU finance ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss the issue later Tuesday.

France, with the backing of EU-presidency holder Austria, has been frustrated with its plan to impose a new tax to ensure that global tech platforms like Facebook and Google pay their fair share in Europe.

Paris argues the measure would be a vote-winning accomplishment for mainstream EU politicians before the European Parliament elections next May, in which anti-Brussels populists could do well.

SEE ALSO: Germany urges global minimum tax for digital giants

In its new plan, digital tech giants would see a three percent tax imposed on advertising sales, meaning the scope of the measure would be largely limited to Google and Facebook.

“This makes a lot of sense as it will cover some of the most profitable activities,” the European source said.

Google and Facebook dominate the online advertising market in Europe, with their power growing.

With the new plan, other online behemoths such as Amazon, AirBnB and Spotify would likely be excluded.

As with the earlier proposal, the tax would only come into force in 2021 if a plan for a global solution being negotiated at the OECD is not agreed before then.

France's initial tax plan had a far wider scope but failed to gain traction, effectively killing the proposal as European tax rules require unanimous backing by all EU members.

Ireland, which hosts the European headquarters of several US tech giants, leads a small group of otherwise mostly Nordic countries that argue the tax will also punish European companies and stoke Washington's anger.

Germany, which firmly backed the plan at first, also changed its tune after auto giants expressed concern that they could have to pay the tax.

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FACEBOOK

Facebook deletes virus conspiracy accounts in Germany

Facebook says it has deleted the accounts, pages and groups linked to virus conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers in Germany who are vocal opponents of government restrictions to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook deletes virus conspiracy accounts in Germany
An anti-vaccination and anti-Covid demo in Berlin on August 28th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

With just 10 days to go before Germany’s parliamentary elections – where the handling of the pandemic by Angela Merkel’s goverment will come under scrutiny – Facebook said it had “removed a network of Facebook and Instagram accounts” linked to the so-called “Querdenker” or Lateral Thinker movement.

The pages posted “harmful health misinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence”, the social media giant said in a statement.

It said that the people behind the pages “used authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify violating content, primarily focused on promoting the conspiracy that the German government’s Covid-19 restrictions are part of a larger plan to strip citizens of their freedoms and basic rights.”

The “Querdenker” movement, which is already under surveillance by Germany’s intelligence services, likes to portray itself as the mouthpiece of opponents
of the government’s coronavirus restrictions, organising rallies around the country that have drawn crowds of several thousands.

READ ALSO: Germany’s spy agency to monitor ‘Querdenker’ Covid sceptics

It loosely groups together activists from both the far-right and far-left of the political spectrum, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. And some of their rallies have descended into violence.

Social media platforms regularly face accusations that they help propagate misinformation and disinformation, particularly with regard to the pandemic and vaccines.

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