By Michel Rose
PARIS (Reuters) – U.S. tech giants Amazon and Apple have not signed up to a new French initiative to get global tech companies to publicly commit to principles including paying their fair share of taxes, government officials said on Monday.
French President Emmanuel Macron has sought for the past three years to cajole tech giants into collaborating with governments on a series of global challenges such as fighting hate speech online, preserving privacy or contributing to state coffers.
Amid a public outcry about technology groups’ good fortunes during the coronavirus pandemic this year, Macron’s advisers said on Monday that the president had asked tech companies to sign up to a new initiative called “Tech for Good Call” underlining principles for the post-COVID world.
The French government released a list of 75 executives of tech companies that had signed up to the initiative so far, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft President Brad Smith. Apple and Amazon were notably absent from the list.
Apple declined to comment, but French officials said talks with the group were ongoing and they could still join the initiative, details of which will be published officially by Tuesday. A representative for Amazon, which French officials said had declined to join the initiative, did not return a request for comment.
“The goal is also to… observe objectively those who decide to play ball and align their interest with individuals and societies and those who stay out of this joint movement,” a presidential adviser told a press briefing.
Leading tech executives such as Facebook’s Zuckerberg attended the so-called “Tech for Good” summit hosted by the French president at the Elysee Palace in 2018, which gave birth to working groups on issues that have become sources of tension between governments and “Big Tech”.
The new initiative is not legally binding, but French officials said Macron will use it as a tool to influence upcoming negotiations at global forums on regulating Big Tech.
The U.S. and European governments have clashed over the issue of taxing Big Tech during talks at the OECD.
Signatories to the “Tech for Good Call” commit to “contribute fairly to the taxes in countries where (they) operate”; prevent the dissemination of “child sexual abuse material, terrorist or extreme violence online contents”; and “support the ecological transition”, among other things.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Susan Fenton)