COMMENT:

The notion that social media titan Facebook and search engine behemoth Google should pay a bit of tax on the amount of money they earn from this country, as proposed this week by the Government, isn't new. But they won't be keen.

After all it's been tried before. John Key had a go in 2016 when he met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at an Apec summit in Peru. "I was reasonably blunt," said Key. "I said I thought Facebook did have an issue in terms of its global tax … and I thought he needed to change that."

Strangely, Zuckerberg didn't follow up. It was a bit like telling Genghis Khan he might want to take a look at his table manners.

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But perhaps we're being ambitious. Perhaps we should start by taxing Myspace and Askjeeves (now Ask.com) and work up from there.

Google has been making money here out of collecting your personal information and selling it for more than 20 years. Why should it change when it can get away with it and their customers don't seem to mind? It's not likely they will withdraw their services and throw us back into the cyber stone age.

With great profits should come great tax obligations, but your social media giants aren't really into that. Nor are they that fussed about any social obligations that their name might suggest.

It might be better if we first worked to expose their promotion of lies as news and provision of a safe place for malevolent bigots, and then tried to take their money.
There's also the matter of what they do in the shadows. Forbes.com – hardly known as a pack of left-wing firebrands– described Google as a "pioneer of surveillance capitalism, effectively monetising all the possible data".

All the possible data means whatever you enter through the search engine. It knows everything about you, which might be fine by you, but should also be your conscious decision.

Companies this unscrupulous are not likely to embrace the opportunity to pay tax. In the US, Amazon is paying no tax on profits of $11.2 billion. The US is renowned as a great place to do business.

This reluctance of such companies to pay their fair share raises some basic questions: WTF? How dare they? Who do they think they are? And can we hope to do anything about it?

Yes we can. In Australia, where they may not care about indigenous or refugee rights but are passionate about money, Facebook last year made a loss because it had to pay a tax bill stretching back nearly 10 years.

The difference between sites such as Amazon on the one hand and Google and Facebook on the other is that in the former case money changes hands, whereas in the latter the monetisation is invisible. We think we're getting it for free but we pay in the form of ads targeted at us when we give away our data.

These are not quality organisations. They are both determined to wipe out or at best render insignificant any competition as they continue their headlong march to monopoly. One of the reasons they don't want to pay tax is that they need the money to buy up their competition and render it impotent. They may be social, but they're bad at sharing. The focus needs to be on them in the tax discussion because before long they are the only ones who will be in the game.

Their income is only going to grow. For the sake of argument, let's assume the companies do pay their share of honestly assessed tax now and in the future. Could we even use that much money? Probably, but only if we put Shane Jones in charge of spending it.