Global Media Tech Regulation Tracker – 22nd September

Welcome to the FIPP regulation tracker! Updated weekly, this live article provides an international, regional, and country-by-country view of the latest goings-on in BIG tech. From Facebook and Twitter on Capitol Hill, to China’s legislative approach to Tencent and Alibaba, and beyond to Google’s relationship with publishers around the the world, we keep track of the latest developments in media tech as they occur.

Got a regulatory story to share? Contact us here.

International

  • 21st September: The Facebook Oversight Board has requested “further clarity about the information previously shared” by the company with regards to XCheck, an internal system that a recent Wall Street Journal investigation said had led to the exemption of celebrities from certain Facebook rules. The timing is not good for Mark Zuckerberg, whom it is claimed in a new book – written by Max Chafkin and citing Peter Thiel – is said to have avoided fact-checking Trump administration posts in exchange for lenient regulation. A claim which the Facebook CEO denies.  
  • 21st September: A new report published by Freedom House says that: “while some democratic governments have made good-faith attempts to regulate the technology industry, state intervention in the digital sphere worldwide has contributed to the 11th consecutive year of global decline in internet freedom.” The study found that authorities in at least 48 countries pursued new rules for tech companies on content, data, and competition over the past year. You can read the report in full here
  • 20th September: A NewsGuard investigation has found that the app’s algorithm is sending users – including children as young as nine – ‘down vaccine misinformation and Covid conspiracy rabbit holes’. “After half-an-hour on TikTok,” the report says, “this young teenager was almost exclusively shown misinformation, including anti-vaccine content and anti-government conspiracy theories.”  
  • 20th September: The Washington Post runs a story titled ‘Tech giants quietly buy up dozens of companies a year. Regulators are finally noticing.’ in which it says that a great many mergers and acquisitions now being made by companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple go unnoticed because they are never publicly announced, and that the issues is overwhelming antitrust regulators
  • 18th September: Facebook has hit back at claims made in a recent WSJ investigation, that the company knows that Instagram is toxic for teenage girls. In a blog post and Twitter thread, Nick Clegg, the company’s Vice President of Global Affairs, said: “At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and wilfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company.” Full statement here.

Africa & Middle East

Cross-Continent

  • 22nd September: Bloomberg reports that IBM has won hybrid cloud deals with a number of Africa’s largest banks including South Africa’s Nedbank and Morocco’s Attijariwafa Bank, as it seeks to capitalise on the fast-growing market of storing large amounts of data on the internet. Telecoms and Tech Reporter, Loni Prinsloo, writes: “The competition among banks and multinational firms venturing into financial services in Africa is heating up. While lenders from Kenya to Ghana are having to contend with a burgeoning mobile-banking industry that allows anyone with the simplest of phones to transfer cash. Mobile network operators including MTN Group Ltd., Vodacom Group Ltd., also offer digital banking services, necessitating a fast shift toward digital services for banks.” Full article here
  • 16th September: Google has begun beaming broadband across the Congo River on beams of light. Project Taara – part of the Google X ‘Moonshot’ initiative – says it is successfully beaming high speed, high-capacity internet from Brazzaville to Kinshasa, bridging a ‘particularly stubborn connectivity gap’. The company believes that the technology can be used to rollout faster, cheaper internet across the continent. 
  • 20th July: According to a new report by Twitter and analysed by Quartz’ East Africa Correspondent, Carlos Mureithi, five African governments including Kenya, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo made information requests to Twitter in the second half of last year. In the article, Mureithi also cites data collected by privacy protection company, Surfshark, which states that “more than half of African countries have blocked access to social media platforms since 2015.”  
  • 24th June: An opinion piece in USNews.com by Rose Namayanja, Ugandan lawyer, author, and former Uganda information minister calls on social media giants to do more to ‘regulate hate content across Africa’. The piece cites US News statistics, which shows that appetite for media tech regulation in Africa is relatively low, compared with the global average. On an international level, 74% of respondents said that they thought the power of big should be limited, with that number raising to 80% in the US. In Africa however, the numbers were lower: South Africa (64%), Nigeria (58%), Kenya (57%). 
  • 1st June: The FT’s Southern Africa Correspondent, Joseph Cotterill, has published an article titled, ‘Africa races to establish better high-speed connections’ in which he looks at digital infrastructure across the continent. Africa has some of the fastest growing internet markets in the world, but “currently accounts for barely 1 per cent of the world’s data centre capacity.” 

Afghanistan

  • 6th September: BBC Urdu Journalist, Sarah Atiq, has published an in-depth report into the Taliban’s use of social media. ‘When the Taliban first came to power in Afghanistan in 1996,’ she writes, ‘they banned the internet and confiscated or destroyed television sets, cameras, and video tapes.’ Now, having regained control of the country in 2021, ‘the group’s social media team pays 1,000 Afghanis (£8.33; $11.51) per month for data packages for team members’. Qari Saeed Khosty, who has effectively now become the social media director for Afghanistan – or the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan (IEA) – is quoted in the article as saying: “Our enemies have television, radio, verified accounts on social media and we have none, yet we fought with them on Twitter and Facebook and defeated them… [We have] “four fully equipped multimedia studios that are used for generating audio, video content and digital branding”.
  • 29th August: CNN runs with an interesting analysis on ‘The Taliban’s social media dilemma’, highlighting the fact that even as the US leaves the country, the group is still attempting to leverage US-led social media platforms to get its message across. The article states: ‘Days after taking control of Afghanistan earlier this month, the Taliban used its first press conference to take a swipe at Facebook in response to a question about freedom of speech: “This question should be asked to those people who are claiming to be promoters of freedom of speech, who do not allow publication of all information,” the group’s spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, said. “I can ask Facebook. … This question should be asked to them”.’

Egypt

  • 16th May: Netblocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the Internet, reports that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are now back up and running fully, having been blocked in parts of the country on Monday. The incident comes amid renewed international condemnation over the Tigray conflict and postponement of elections.

Ethiopia

  • 15th July: Journalism.co.uk has published an article on HaqCheck – a local and multilingual fact-checking group formed inside Addis Zeybe’s newsroom. Osama Gaweesh, who is also Editor-in-Chief at EgyptWatch and Presenter at Alhiwar.tv, writes that ‘Facebook is pretty much the equivalent of the internet and the main source of digital news’. The journalist says that HaqCheck is currently applying to become one of Facebook’s official third-party fact-checkers, and also has plans to build a training centre for journalists who want to fight misinformation and work on public media literacy
  • 23rd May: The EU has raised concerns about press rights in Ethiopia, following the killing and expulsion of journalists. “The EU is seriously concerned about the shrinking space for freedom of the media and harassment, arrests as well as restrictions imposed on Ethiopian and international journalists in Ethiopia,” said an EU spokesperson in a statement

Ghana

  • 28th July: The Washington Post runs with a worrying story that ‘Lawmakers in Ghana have proposed a bill that would punish displays of same-sex affection and advocacy for LGBTQ rights with up to a decade in prison,’ including on social media. The ‘Proper Human Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021’ has been submitted for consideration and debate in the Ghanaian Parliament. 
  • 25th April: The BBC updates on Twitter’s decision earlier this month to select Ghana as the location of its African HQ. The selection of Ghana shocked many on the continent, including Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho, CEO of Lagos-based digital marketing firm FutureSoft, who said of the Nigerian media tech industry: “Across sectors we’ve seen regulators step in to regulate after technology companies have disrupted the market. While regulation is good, what it sometimes means is that you’re creating barriers to entry by creating high licence fees for example. Regulators need to think about the bigger picture and the long-term impact of these regulations and policies.”

Israel

  • 14th July: Artificial Intelligence company Trenario has launched an AI-driven news channel called Nooz. Digital presenters are delivering automated news bulletins created automatically by the company’s software, and drawing upon visuals available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. 
  • 14th May: A number of outlets including Sky News report that Twitter placed a “media manipulation” message on a tweet sent by a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before it was deleted. The post is emblematic of a reported sea of fake news being pushed by social media users in both Israel and Palestine, as the conflict between the two factions continues.
  • 27th April: ‘Social Media Giants Deleted 159 Anti-vaxxer Posts at Israeli Cyber Unit’s Request’, reports Haaretz. Beginning in December 2020, the Israeli Health Ministry and State Prosecutor’s Office Cyber Unit began working to identify and request the takedown of harmful antivax posts on social media. Since that time, Facebook and other social media companies have accommodated 87% of the Unit’s requests, which are only made in relation to posts constituting a criminal act. 

Kenya

  • 13th September: A new report from the Mozilla Foundation has found that ‘Kenyan journalists, judges, and other members of civil society are facing coordinated disinformation and harassment campaigns on Twitter. Speaking to the BBC, Activist Daisy Amdany said: “It is waged against you until it tires you out.”
  • 26th August:  Kenyan’s are using social media to ‘share vaccine information their government won’t provide’, reports Quartz’s East Africa correspondent, Carlos Mureithi. “Looking to fill information gaps and boost vaccination numbers, Kenyans are using social media to spread details of Covid-19 vaccine availability. They’re sharing posts on Twitter about medical facilities that have Covid-19 vaccines, as well as which ones boost short queues and waiting times, in a bid to encourage each other to get vaccinated.”

Mauritius

  • 20th April: The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) has released a consultation document about the government’s plans to give it more power to censor social media, reports AllAfrica. The proposal is a highly controversial one, as it would give authorities in the country the power to access citizens data, identify and remove specific social media posts, and track down the users who posted them.

Nigeria

  • 13th September: Citing Starcounter statistics, daily newspaper Vanguard runs with the headline: ‘100 days of twitter ban: Twitter drops market share to 2.8%, Facebook, Instagram gain’. A number of sources are reporting the significant harm that the ban is doing to Nigeria’s economy, including Netblocks, which estimates that US $600 million in revenue has been lost as a result.
  • 27th July: According to the Netblocks Cost of Shutdown Tool, and reported by Africanews, Nigeria has lost at least US$243m since the government’s decision to ban Twitter in June. 
  • 27th July: Speaking at the Annual Roundtable on Cultural Orientation (ARTCO), the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has offered clarifications on the government’s stance on social and wider media, reports The Nigerian Tribune: “The media is an indispensable institution in modern and democratic societies. As the fourth estate of the realm and watchdog of society with constitutional backing, media has a pivotal role to play in the progress and well-being of society… Contrary to insinuation in some quarters, this government has no plans to muzzle the media. It appreciates the media as a strategic partner in our determination to foster the socio-economic and political development of our nation.”
  • 7th June: The Nigerian Government had suspended Twitter indefinitely. In a statement, cited somewhat ironically here on Twitter, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Nigeria. said: “The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.” Many people in the country pointed out that they could simply login using a VPN, which has further angered the Nigerian Government. Additionally, there are those that say that the real reason behind the ban was retaliation for Twitter’s removal two days previous, of a post from President Muhammadu Buhari, which threatened to punish secessionists.
  • 31st May: Amnesty International Nigeria has launched #TalkYourTruth – a campaign to secure the Right to Freedom of Expression, as critics, journalists and individuals who express dissenting views face intimidation, threats and sometimes arrest by security forces. “It is unacceptable that in Nigeria those who exercise freedom of expression through critical opinions sometimes face threats, verbal and physical assault, indiscriminate arrest, torture, detention and prosecution through trumped-up charges and abuse of the Cybercrime and Anti-Terrorism laws. Nigerians must be free to express opinions without fear,” says Osai Ojigho, Country Director, Amnesty International.

South Africa

  • 22nd September: The Electoral Commission of South Africa’s Dr Nomsa Masuku will join a News24 roundtable discussion on Thursday, examining social media and its impact on the electoral process. The event will be hosted by News24’s Political Editor, Qaanitah Hunte, and streamed live by the publication. You can find out more here
  • 13th July: Non-profit fact-checking organisation Africa Check has identified a number of false or misleading videos that are being shared without verification, in relation to unrest in the country. One video was identified to actually be showing protest footage from Venezuela more than three years ago, while another was from South Africa but actually taken during lockdown in 2020. According to a source quoted by Arab News, a group of ministers are “monitoring all social media platforms and we are tracking those who are sharing false information and calling for civil disobedience.”
  • 7th July: News24 has published an opinion piece written by the Film and Publication Board’s (FPB) Abongile Mashele and Laurie Less. In it, the two ask the question, ‘Who has the power to decide what content is left up or taken down?’ and call for a sensible approach to global media tech regulation: “Having regard to our recent past of thought control, censorship and enforced conformity to governmental theories, freedom of expression, the free and open exchange of ideas, is no less important than it is in the US or globally. It could actually be contended with much more force that the public interest in the open marketplace of ideas is all the more important to us as South Africans because our democracy is not yet deeply embedded… However, technology has enabled easy sharing and access of inappropriate media, making this an extremely difficult aspect to regulate and mitigate” You can read the article in full here
  • 30th June: a new report published by Ornico in collaboration with World Wide Worx has delved into the current state of the South African social media landscape. The report ranks the leading social media platforms in South Africa, and examines emerging regulatory issues including in the influencer marketing space: “Increasing legislation and guidelines governing the advertiser and influencer relationship, such as the South African Advertising Regulatory Board’s Social Media Code (2019), now enforces that any promoted posts be identified as such – by using terminology such as #AD, #Advertisement, #Sponsored.” You can download the report in full here

South Sudan

  • 29th August: NetBlocks has confirmed significant disruption to internet service in South Sudan affecting cellular and some fixed-line connectivity. The incident comes ahead of protests planned by the People’s Coalition for Civil Action (PCCA), which is calling for the leadership to resign.

Turkey

  • 29th July: New York Times Journalists Adam Satariano and Daisuke Wakabayashi have published a compelling piece on ‘Why Turkey’s Regulators Became Such a Problem for Google’, highlighting the fact that the antitrust backlash against Big Tech is playing out in places ‘not known as regulatory hotbeds’: “Type “running shoes,” “best laptop” or “camping equipment” into Google from just about anywhere in the world and the top of the screen will show a carousel of ads from websites promoting products to browse and compare. Not in Turkey. Google eliminated those advertisements last year after Turkish antitrust officials ordered the company to make it easier for competing shopping websites to appear more prominently in the ads.” You can read the full article here
  • 27th July: The debate around social – and indeed wider media – regulation in the country is heating up.Pro-government newspaper, The Daily Sabah, reports that ‘Turkey reviews Germany’s model for social media regulation’ and says that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is looking at a number of EU country models for social media regulation, before it submits its own plan to Parliament in October. Meanwhile, Voice of America (VOA) reports that ‘Turkey’s Independent Media Brace for New Crackdown’ following the announcement of impending new legislation and controls on the foreign funding of social media in Turkey. 
  • 26th April: Turkey is to introduce ‘a comprehensive regulatory framework’ around cryptocurrency over the coming weeks. Reporting on a televised interview that Central Bank Governor, Sahap Kavcioglu gave to Turkish broadcasters on Friday, the Financial Times and a number of other outlets report that despite increased regulatory measures being introduced, the country has “no intention” of prohibiting cryptocurrency outright.

Asia-Pacific

Cross-Region

  • 18th August: Facebook has formally announced its participation in the Apricot subsea cable system, together with other leading regional and global partners, including Google. Expected to launch in 2024, the 12,000-kilometer-long cable will connect Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, delivering “much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability to expand connections in the Asia-Pacific region.” The company is also involved in a similar project on the African continent, which is also being expanded. 
  • 28th July: Nikkei has published a deep-dive piece into Facebooks’ actions across the Asia-Pacific region, focussing on the current state of play for the company in countries including India, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, and China. The article also includes comment from Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook Data Scientist who – fired in 2020 – penned a 6,600 word memo about the company: “Facebook is more willing to defy certain countries than others — and about certain matters than others.” 

Australia

  • 30th August: The country is considering new laws relating to the online payment systems provided by Apple, Google, and WeChat, according to Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg. “Ultimately, if we do nothing to reform the current framework, it will be Silicon Valley alone that determines the future of our payments system, a critical piece of our economic infrastructure,” Frydenberg said in an opinion piece published in the Australian Financial Review newspaper.
  • 21st July: Reset Australia is demanding greater transparency on how Facebook’s algorithms work, after new research from NewsGuard provided to the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that Facebook was recommending new conspiracy groups, including anti-mask and 5G themed pages. The lobby group has also recently been vocal in calling for greater protections for children across Facebook platforms, which the social media giant has subsequently made a further announcement on
  • 19th July: Former UK reality star turned far-right commentator, Katie Hopkins, has been deported for boasting on social media of her intention to break the country’s Covid-19 quarantine rules. In a now deleted Instagram video, Hopkins said that she planned to greet the hotel staff bringing her meals, “naked with no face mask”. 
  • 1st June: Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has told the Financial Times that the country is on course to deliver a media owner-tech platform ecosystem that is looked upon favourably by all parties: “We are on track for deals all around. It’s been a big success,” he told the publication
  • 25th May: An inquiry chaired by Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young, has found that the country needs to strengthen press freedom laws, and offers 17 recommendations. The inquiry reports that public interest journalism needs further legislation to protect it, while an overall culture of greater transparency should be promoted. 

China

  • 14th September: Alibaba has seen its stockmarket value fall again, following reports that the government is seeking to breakup Alipay. The platform, which is owned by Alibaba affiliate Ant Group, is China’s biggest payments app, and could also be forced to hand over its user data to a partly government-owned company responsible for making loan assessments.  
  • 30th August: The National Press and Publication Administration has limited children’s game playing time to an hour a day. As reported by Sky News and a number of other outlets, under 18s will only be allowed to play between 8pm and 9pm on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and on public holidays. The ban is to be enforced by the gaming companies, who are being held highly accountable for future gaming behaviours. State media has previously labelled computer games ‘electronic drugs’ and spiritual opium’, and the Sky report provides an interesting analysis of this language: “The reference to opium is charged in China, where European powers, including Great Britain and France, hobbled the Qing dynasty in the mid-19th century through heavy imports of the drug, ultimately leading to Hong Kong being given to Britain as a sovereign territory before it was returned in 1997.” 
  • 17th August: The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) has issued a set of draft regulations inclusive of a ban against using algorithms or fake reviews to promote goods and services. According to Al Jazeera, this could force companies like Tencent and Alibaba to dismantle their walled-off ecosystems. 
  • 17th August: The Chinese Government has taken a stake in subsidiary of TikTok owner ByteDance, which includes a seat on the board. Washington Post reporter, Jeanne Whalen, writes: “The ownership stake does not appear to directly affect TikTok. But the development could prompt fresh debate about whether TikTok poses national-security risks to American users. In any case, it suggests that China is pushing for more sway over ByteDance, whose TikTok-like platform inside of China is called Douyin.”
  • 3rd August: China’s regulatory soap opera continues, as Reuters runs with a story titled ‘Baffled investors fear nothing’s off limits in China regulatory crackdown’, which tells of a – now amended – state published story comparing online gaming to ‘opium’. Tencent’s value fell 6% (and as far as 10% according to Insider), as did the country’s CSI All Shares Semiconductor & Semiconductor Equipment Index. Richard Kramer, Managing Partner of Arete Research, told the publication: “This drip feed of ‘potential’ regulations constitutes a tsunami of uncertainties.” 

India

  • 6th July: According to numerous sources, including Al Jazeera: ‘Twitter Inc. no more enjoys liability protection against user-generated content in India… [The country’s] IT ministry told the High Court in New Delhi that Twitter’s non-compliance amounted to a breach of the provisions of the IT Act, causing the US firm to lose its immunity, according to the filing dated July 5.’
  • 30th June: The Indian IT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, has said that US social media company’s must adhere to domestic laws when operating within the company. In a statement made during the India Global Forum 2021 and reported here by Reuters, the minister said: “You operate in India, you make good money in India … but you will take the position that ‘I will only be governed by laws of America’ … This is plainly not acceptable.”
  • 27th May: WhatsApp has filed a lawsuit in Delhi against the Indian government, according to Reuters. It claims that the country’s new digital rules will force the Facebook-owned App to violate privacy protections, specifically as regards to revealing the identity of the original posters of information deemed to be of legitimate interest to the Indian authorities. Twitter has also expressed concerns over the new laws, while speaking at a recent virtual conference Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, said that the company was committed to complying with local laws, including in India. 
  • 23rd May: Numerous sources including the BBC report that the Indian government has instructed social media companies to remove any content that refers to the “Indian variant” of Covid-19. The Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology is said to have made the request in a government order on Friday, which was not made public but obtained by news agencies including the Press Trust of India.
  • 20th April: CNBC runs a story titled, ‘India wants to cut Big Tech down to size’ examining the backlash that has taken place regarding the country’s new social media legislation. In February, India imposed new rules centred around making social media sites more accountable for content, and the taking down thereof, as well as making it easier for the government to identify the original posters of certain messages. “I do believe the Indian Government has become less accommodative over the years,” Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at Tufts University’s The Fletcher School, told the publication. 

Myanmar

South Korea

  • 14th September: Google has been fined US $177m in South Korea for abusing market dominance, according to the Financial Times. Specifically, the fine relates to Google’s use of ‘Anti-Fragmentation Agreements’ (AFA), which are included in smartphone manufacturers contracts and mean that they cannot make changes to Google’s operating system. The ruling comes on the same day that the country’s ‘anti-Google law’ comes into play.   
  • 31st August: South Korea has passed an ‘anti-Google law’ that will prevent Google and Apple from forcing developers to use their in-app billing systems when building apps. TechCrunch and a number of other outlets report the following Apple response: “the proposed Telecommunications Business Act will put users who purchase digital goods from other sources at risk of fraud, undermine their privacy protections, make it difficult to manage their purchases, and features like ‘Ask to Buy’ and Parental Controls will become less effective.” 

Taiwan

  • 10th May: Taiwan will work with the European Union and other democracies to ensure a more “resilient supply” of crucial goods like semiconductors, reports Reuters. The news agency was reporting on a speech made by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, after which she tweeted: “Taiwan stands with democracies around the world in the face of authoritarian expansion. As long as we work together, our shared values of freedom, human rights & the rule of law will prevail.” 

Europe

EU

  • 31st August: A new report published by Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobbycontrol shows that Google, Facebook and Microsoft are now the three biggest spenders in lobbying the EU. As a whole, the tech sector now spends over €97 million annually lobbying EU institutions, making it the biggest lobby sector in the region ahead even of pharma, fossil fuels, finance, and chemicals. Full report here
  • 28th May: The international symposium on ‘The Impartiality of Judges and the Use of Social Media by Judges’ was held today, with a view to elaborating on the topics of the impartiality of judges and the use of social media by exchanging international knowledge and experience on these topics. The symposium started with the opening remarks of Mr Osman Atalay, Chair of the Human Rights Commission and President of the 1st Criminal Chamber of the Court of Cassation, Mr Cristian Urse, Head of the Council of Europe Programme Office in Ankara and Mr Mehmet Akarca, First President of the Court of Cassation of Turkey. 
  • 26th May: The EU Commission has presented new guidance to strengthen the Code of Practice on Disinformation. Established in October 2018, the code calls upon tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to help directly tackle disinformation spread online. Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market, said: “We need to rein in the infodemic and the diffusion of false information putting people’s life in danger. Disinformation cannot remain a source of revenue. 
  • 24th May: Imperial College London has hosted a debate between leading experts on the EU’s upcoming AI regulation, which aims ‘to turn Europe into the global hub for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence (AI)’. Melissa Heikkilä, AI Correspondent for POLITICO Europe, chaired the event, and was joined by: Dr Yves-Alexandre de Montjoye, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Imperial; Karen Melchior, Member of the European Parliament; Professor Fraser Sampson, UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, and Nathalie Smuha, Assistant Lecturer in Law and Ethics of AI and Technology, KU Leuven. You can find out more here
  • 30th April: The EU today states that Apple’s App Store has broken competition rules, after a complaint from Spotify: “Our preliminary finding is that Apple exercises considerable market power in the distribution of music streaming apps to owners of Apple devices. On that market, Apple has a monopoly,” said Margrethe Vestager, Head of Competition Policy in the EU.

France

  • 1st September: Google has hit back against the US $592m penalty it received in July, for its approach to paying publishers for their content. Sebastien Missoffe, a Google France VP and country manager, wrote in a statement: “We are appealing the French Competition Authority’s decision which relates to our negotiations between April and August 2020. We disagree with a number of legal elements, and believe that the fine is disproportionate to our efforts to reach an agreement and comply with the new law. Irrespective of this, we recognize neighbouring rights and we continue to work hard to resolve this case and put deals in place. This includes expanding offers to 1,200 publishers, clarifying aspects of our contracts, and we are sharing more data as requested by the French Competition Authority in their July Decision.” TechCrunch has the full story here
  • 2nd August: Matt Burgess, Deputy Digital Editor at Wired, has published a piece looking at France’s recent clampdown on Google, and explaining why this is such a significant national case within the wider international landscape. ‘Such sums are smallfry to Google and its parent company Alphabet, which made $61.9 billion (£44bn) in the last quarter alone,’ writes the journalist. ‘But the FCA’s ruling on Google’s ad tech was headline-grabbing for another reason: Google didn’t fight it. The company agreed with all the facts in the FCA’s case and also agreed to make significant changes to how it operates. And these changes won’t just happen in France, but across the world.’
  • 13th July: France’s competition regulator has fined Google 500 million Euros (US $592 million) for failing to negotiate in good faith with French publishers. France’s competition regulator has threatened further fines in two months time, if the media tech giant fails to find a way to properly compensate news agencies and publishers for their content. In a statement quoted by the Associated Press (AP), Google said it was “very disappointed” by the decision
  • 7th June: France’s competition watchdog, L’Autorité de la concurrence (ADLC), has handed a €220 fine to Google for favouring its own services in the online advertising sector. On its website, the ADLC said: “Google, which did not dispute the facts, wished to settle with the Autorité, which granted its request. Google also proposed commitments, accepted by the Autorité, that will change the way its advertising service DFP and its sales platform AdX function.”

Germany

  • 27th July: Google has announced that it will take legal action against the government over the extension of its network enforcement law, citing privacy concerns. In comments posted on the official YouTube Blog, Sabine Frank, Head of Government Affairs and Public Policy YouTube for the German-speaking countries as well as Central and Eastern Europe, said: “The fight against hatred and hate speech on the Internet is of the utmost importance to us. However, the protection of our users’ data remains a central concern.”
  • 7th June: As the European copyright for press publishers enters into force in Germany today, upday has confirmed its commitment to pay all providers whose content is available on upday a fair remuneration in line with the new regulation. This sees the news aggregator make a direct contribution to independent journalism in the digital era, supporting it in its entire breadth and diversity. More here
  • 4th June: The Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s national competition regulator, has initiated a proceeding against the Google News Showcase. The examination is mainly based on the authority’s new competences under the new legal provisions applicable to large digital companies. In this respect it follows up on the proceeding against Google which the Bundeskartellamt initiated on 25th May to determine a paramount significance for competition across markets within the meaning of Section 19a of the German Competition Act, GWB. In the past months, apart from the proceeding against Google, the authority had already initiated proceedings against Facebook and Amazon based on this new competition law tool. More here
  • 17th May: Axel Springer and Facebook have signed a letter of intent to engage in joint global cooperation. Content produced by the publisher will be distributed via various Facebook offerings, including ‘Facebook News’. As part of the deal, the media brands involved will also ramp up the sharing of video content on the network. The agreement explicitly excludes the future ancillary copyright for press publishers. The initial focus will be on Germany and the US, expanding out into wider territories going forward. 

Ireland

  • 17th September: The country’s data privacy regulator has raised a question over Facebook’s new smart glasses, which have been produced in partnership with Ray Ban, according to Reuters.  The glasses come complete with in-built cameras, speaker, microphone and voice assistant, and the regulator wants to know if the LED indicator light on the side of the glasses is “an effective means” to let people know they are being filmed or photographed.
  • 5th May: Publishers attending a conference hosted by NewsBrands Ireland, the representative body for print and online national newspapers in the country, have been urged to develop a common digital advertising platform to compete more effectively with Google and Facebook, reports The Irish Times.The publication also reports that discussions between Irish news publishers and Google about potential payment for content on Google News Showcase are at an “early stage”, according to NewsBrands Ireland Chairman, Colm O’Reilly. 
  • 21st April: The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) today launched a public consultation on proposed changes to the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) zone for the Dublin area. Diarmuid O Conghaile, Aviation Regulator/CEO Designate of the Irish Authority said, “Our job is to facilitate the use of drones, which are quickly emerging as a transformative technology.” The development and regulation of this aspect of tech is important in media for two reasons: at macro level, drones are obviously increasingly connected to people’s phones, which brings wider data/privacy concerns into play, and we also looked recently at an impressive drone QR code display in the Shanghai sky, which exemplifies the increasing use of such technology in advertising and events.      

Luxembourg

  • 30th July: The Luxembourg National Commission for Data Protection (Commission Nationale pour la Protection des Données – CNPD) has fined Amazon €746m (US $887 million) for failure to comply with European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The fine was actually handed out by the CNPD on 16th July, but was not made public until Amazon submitted its Q2 earnings report and subsequent documentation this week. The company, which has its European headquarters in Luxembourg, was not happy with then decision, telling CNBC: We strongly disagree with the CNPD’s ruling, and we intend to appeal.”  

Netherlands

  • 2nd July: New privacy litigation that is being brought against Facebook by two non-profits can go ahead, an Amsterdam court has ruled. The Data Privacy Foundation (DPS) has been looking bring a case against Facebook over its collection of user data since 2019, and has now been joined by the Dutch consumer protection not-for-profit, Consumentenbond. According to TechCrunch, ‘The pair are seeking redress for Facebook users in the Netherlands for alleged violations of their privacy rights — both by suing for compensation for individuals; and calling for Facebook to end the privacy-hostile practices.’

Russia

  • 17th September: Google and Apple have been accused of capitulating to Kremlin pressure after removing Alexei Navalny’s tactical voting app from their online stores, according to numerous sources including The Guardian. The move comes as the country’s voters head to the polls for the parliamentary elections. 
  • 26th July: Russian authorities have blocked access to imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s website, along with those of dozens of his allies, according to multiple sources including The Guardian. The move comes ahead of the country’s parliamentary election in September. 
  • 24th May: Reuters reports that Russia has given Google 24hrs to delete what it calls ‘prohibited content’ or face fines and a possible traffic slowdown. The news comes just two days after the FT’s Moscow Correspondent, Max Seddon, reported that ‘Google’s entire Russian business [is] in jeopardy’ as the international tech giant finds itself increasingly at odds with the country’s national media laws. 
  • 17th May: The Moscow Times reports that Roskomnadzor, the country’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, has stepped back from the idea of blocking Twitter, and that the social network has met with 91% of its requests to delete content. However, the media regulator will continue to slow page loading speeds for the social media platform’s mobile app within its borders. 
  • 9th May: Bitcoin.com says that The Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR) has examined three platforms offering crypto-related services, according to the Bank’s 2020 annual report. The projects were tested in its regulatory sandbox in the course of last year.
  • 29th April: Russia has fined Apple RU906m (US $12m), according to numerous sources including Macworld UK. The country’s competition body found that the company had abused its position of distribution dominance in favouring its own apps in the App Store. 

UK

  • 22nd September: ‘Microsoft is heading for a new antitrust showdown’, according to Wired. Senior Editor Gian M. Volpicelli, who says that the company’s tendency to ‘bundle’ new features in its products is stifling competition: “The episode is indicative of an ongoing shift. While Microsoft has been largely absent from heated discussions about Big Tech’s anticompetitive practices for nearly a decade, new entrants are increasingly worried – if not necessarily vocal – about the company’s dominance in both the enterprise software and cloud domains. Regulators in the UK and Europe might soon start taking notice of that, too.”
  • 20th September: The UK has a new Digital Secretary. Nadine Dorries, who is the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, took over the role as part of a cabinet reshuffle last week, and speaking at the opening of London Tech Week today said: “It’s been a baptism of fire. I only took over the role of Digital Secretary on Wednesday – and I’m already here amongst you, three days later, kicking off the biggest tech event in Europe. That’s just quite amazing… And I and everyone else in the government are acutely aware of how important the tech industry is to this country. It’s going to be absolutely essential to our Covid recovery.”
  • 15th September: Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, will today give a speech at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge, reiterating his belief that Channel 4 should be privatised. In a statement already widely circulating in the UK media and cited here in The Guardian, he said: “I believe that if Channel 4 wants to grow then at some point soon it will need cash. It can either come on the back of the taxpayer, or it can come from private investment.” This week marks the end of a consultation period assessing the channel’s viability to continue as a state-owned broadcaster.
  • 30th August: The country’s new ICO Age appropriate design code comes into force on 2nd September, and ahead of that Instagram has introduced a requirement to that all users enter their birthdate before using the app. In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Children’s Commissioner, Rachel de Souza, said that online platforms more broadly would be required to introduce tougher age checks. 
  • 26th August: The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has today announced its intention to strike ‘data adequacy partnerships’ with the US, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Dubai International Finance Centre and Colombia, followed by Brazil, Kenya and Indonesia. The new partnerships will be designed to ensure high data protection standards, making it easier for UK organisations to exchange data with important trade markets.

North & South America

Cuba

  • 1st August: NetBlocks has reported further blocking of Cuba’s internet, which is said to be affecting a wide variety of online services: “The incident is likely to limit citizens’ access to information amid ongoing human rights demonstrations,” says the platform. 
  • 12th July: NetBlocks reports that social media and messaging platforms have been restricted, and internet services have been interrupted, amid widening anti-government protests

US

  • 20th September: A number of publications including Variety report that Twitter is to Pay US $809.5 million to Settle a class-action lawsuit, which claims that Jack Dorsey and others at the company ‘misled investors’ by hiding facts about Twitter’s slowing user growth. The suit was originally filed in 2016. 
  • 30th August: New Orleans is in the midst of a near-total power outage, according to NetBlocks. Real-time network data connectivity has been reduced to just 11% of ordinary levels, as Hurricane Ida has hit Louisiana. 
  • 27th August: The Congressional Committee investigating the January 6th Capitol Hill riot has requested records from no less than 15 media tech companies, as announced in a press release and reported here by CNET. The companies in question are: 4chan, 8kun (formerly known as 8chan), Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, Telegram, theDonald.win, Tik-Tok, Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and Zello. 
  • 11th August: A new bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) seeks to bring more competition to the App store market, which is currently controlled by Apple and Google. If introduced, the legislation would bolster the use of third-party app stores and allow apps to be sideloaded, meaning they could bypass official app platforms altogether. 
  • 27th July: A TikToker with over 3 million followers is being sued by a car wash in Florida after a rant about the company went viral, reports Insider. In total, ‘Bryan the Diamond’ posted six videos on the subject, which have collectively now been viewed more than 6 million times, in which he said that the business should be “Shut the f*uck down”. He is now being sued for defamation. 

Canada

  • 22nd June: Justin Trudeau’s government has passed the controversial Bill C-10, which is designed to subject tech giants to the same requirements as traditional broadcasters.“There are other issues we have to address when it comes to broadcasting and creation, and we will,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said during the final debate Monday evening. “Bill C-10 is a first step in that direction.” However, to become law the bill still needs to pass through the senate, and it is still unclear whether it will be successful at that stage of the process. Full story at Bloomberg.com
  • 10th May: Confusion reigns around the country’s proposed Bill C-10, as Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault attempts to clarify the full remit of the government’s updates to the current Broadcasting Act. Having previously stated that the bill could be used to impose discoverability regulations on users who have large enough followings to warrant them, the minister now says that this will not be the case. It’s certainly not a bad question to ask, when Canadian stars Drake and Justin Bieber have 88 million subscribers between them on YouTube alone.  
  • 26th April: The House of Commons Heritage Committee met again today to discuss Bill C-10, an act that would bring about a change to the country’s overarching broadcast legislation and give the government greater control over online content: “The Bill clarifies that the Act applies on the Internet. Clause 1 would add online undertakings as a distinct class of broadcasting,” says the Canadian Department of Justice, while critics claim it will give the authorities too much power over what ordinary citizens can and can’t post online. 

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