Emma Tucker: Digital Monopolies Are Like The Wild West  

Social media platforms must be reined in and held to account, to prevent the online ecosystem acting as the ‘wild west’, The Times’ deputy editor Emma Tucker has said. 

In a wide-ranging interview on the Media Masters podcast, Ms Tucker talked about regulating social media platforms, the importance of journalism, and the role of print in a digital world. 

When asked about The Times’ relationship with Facebook, following its investigation in to extremist content on YouTube and concerns over Facebook, Ms Tucker said: “We have little choice there, really – these social media platforms are very, very powerful; we have to use them.

“Journalistically, our relationship is perhaps a bit patchy, because we obviously had this big investigation led by our investigative reporter Alexi Mostrous, who looked at the way in which platforms such as Facebook were not being held to account for what they were effectively publishing online.”

Ms Tucker said she believed that social media platforms were heading towards being regulated, she said: “It’s very difficult to know, because at the moment it’s still pretty much the Wild West out there in terms of these big digital monopolies. There’s a feeling that they need to be reined in, they need to be regulated; they need to have the same restrictions placed on them that regular publishers have, but it’s very difficult to know how you do that.

“They’re global entities – so how would you regulate them, where would that regulation come from? They’re also very popular, so it’s difficult to restrict something that people like. Having said that, the European Commission has fined Google a couple of times now, has taken them to task, Germany fines Facebook now if they put up dodgy content – the pressure is on. And I think some of it will come from within the companies themselves, who are much more conscious of their reputations now.”

Discussing the role of The Times’ different mediums, Ms Tucker believed that the challenge was, “getting the balance right between print and digital… nudging forward on the digital front whilst maintaining the quality of the print product”. Asked as to whether there would always be a print edition of The Times, her view was that “the print edition is still so important” and that “there’s a time and a place for the print product and a time and a place for the digital edition.”

At The Times, Ms Tucker said: “It’s all about investing in high quality journalism, making sure we’re giving people journalism they can trust, journalism that they won’t find anywhere else.” There was a big focus on “the quality of the writers and the writing” in order to stand-out and maintain readership.