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 Google’s battle with publishers in Australia, and beyond to the latest legislative updates in individual markets, we’ll be keeping track of the latest development in media tech as they occur.
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- 8th June: A massive internet outage apparently swept across the world this morning, with websites including Amazon, Reddit, and the UK Government site all being affected. According to the Guardian, it began at around 11am UK time, and was traced to a failure in a content delivery network (CDN) run by Fastly.
- 7th June: Mark Zuckerberg has said in a Facebook post that the company wants to do more to support content creators: “To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” he says. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.” The CEO says that Facebook will also be launching a new payout interface so creators can see how different companies’ fees and taxes are impacting their earnings.
- 5th June: A “historic” deal to make multinational companies pay more tax has been struck between the G7 nations: US, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan, as well as the EU. The agreement not only shifts tax payments from where companies declare their profits to wherever they are operating in the world, but also seeks to put in place a global minimum corporation tax rate to avoid the possibility of countries undercutting each other in their attempts to woo big business. Nick Clegg, VP of Global Affairs for Facebook, said: “Facebook has long called for reform of the global tax rules and we welcome the important progress made at the G7. Today’s agreement is a significant first step towards certainty for businesses and strengthening public confidence in the global tax system. We want the international tax reform process to succeed and recognize this could mean Facebook paying more tax, and in different places.”
- 18th May: FIPP today launches a new report titled ‘Big Tech and You’, examining the ongoing, but at times still uneasy relationship between traditional media owners and tech platforms. The study looks at the ongoing march towards regulation, as well as some of the attempts previously made by tech players themselves to better work with media, such as the Facebook Accelerator Program, Community Network Programme, Facebook Grants, Instagram Local News Fellowship, Google News Showcase, etc.
- 17th May: Cryptocurrency values have been fluctuating dynamically in recent days in weeks, thanks in part due to the equally erratic behaviour of SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. Today, Yahoo! Finance has published an article titled ‘Why Elon Musk’s bitcoin and dogecoin tweets don’t break rules’, which explains that: “Laws govern things like when insiders can buy and sell shares in their own company, how they disclose information to the market, and what must be disclosed. In the world of cryptocurrencies, no such rules exist. While many cryptocurrency exchanges are now regulated, cryptocurrencies themselves are not. Part of the appeal for many investors is that most cryptos are decentralised — no one entity controls them. As a result, no one has authority to pull up Musk for sending bitcoin higher or lower with a tweet.”
Africa & Middle East
- 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.”
- 7th May: Facebook is expanding its Express Wi-fi platform across 12 African countries in partnership with satellite operating company, Eutelsat. The companies will provide broadband services via satellite across several Sub-Saharan regions spanning countries including: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 17th May: The National Information Technology Development Agency of Nigeria (NITDA) has issued a public advisory on the use of WhatsApp by citizens of the country, signed by the organisation’s Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations, Mrs Hadiza Umar. Within its paragraphs, the statement says that the “NITDA, with stakeholders, is exploring all options to ensure Nigerians do not become victims of digital colonialism.”
- 14th May: Apple’s newly appointed MD for Nigeria and the company’s first ever senior top-executive appointment on the continent at large, Teju Ajani, has spoken at an Africa Soft Power Project event. Speaking about tech growth across Africa, she said: “As long as we are solving relevant problems with relevant solutions, adoption will come. And when adoption comes, investment will come, because naturally there is always an interest in leveraging those user opportunities.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 28th April: A new report from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that the dominance of Apple and Google’s app stores is impacting competition and consumers, and says that measures are needed to address the situation. “Apple and Google don’t only run the app marketplaces, they also compete within them with their own apps. They have the ability and incentive to promote their own apps over others, and they control the terms that their competitors must comply with to gain access to their stores,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
- 6th June: The Wall Street Journal runs with the headline ‘China’s Tech Clampdown Is Spreading Like Wildfire’ and says that “Chinese authorities are targeting hundreds of apps in a push to clean up the country’s fast-growing, freewheeling internet sector,” as the country clamps down on media tech practices across everything from privacy to working conditions.
- 1st June: The BBC reports that an update of the Huawei operating system, HarmonyOS, will be installed in a wider range of products, including its smartphones. There has been great excitement ahead of the launch, according to the BBC’s China Media Analyst, Kerry Allen: “Divisions of China’s youth movement, the Communist Youth League, and even fire rescue and official courthouse accounts, have been promoting the new system. In the last week, more than 17 million Weibo users have read posts that include the hashtag ‘TheHarmonySmartphoneSystemIsHere’.”
- 20th May: Time Magazine has published an article by its East Asia Correspondent, Charlie Campbell, titled ‘How China Is Cracking Down on Its Once Untouchable Tech Titans’, which looks at the changing attitude towards tech industry “rockstars” in the country: “Over the past few months regulatory scrutiny, combined with growing anger at their obscene wealth, accumulated on the backs of downtrodden workers, is wobbling the perch of these previously untouchable tycoons in the communist-ruled state.”
- 11th May: A new study from the The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has found that Chinese actors are using social media networks to influence foreign public opinion. Analysis shows that People’s Republic of China (PRC) diplomats and state media outlets are highly active on Twitter and Facebook. Only 14% of PRC diplomat accounts on Twitter are labelled by the platform, and more than 10% of diplomat retweets are from accounts that have since been suspended for violating Twitter’s rules prohibiting platform manipulation. More here.
- 8th May: China is to begin restricting mobile app news notifications in a new internet clampdown, reports Reuters. It represents the latest attempt by the country to tighten regulations and rein in the growing influence of internet companies over its citizens’ daily lives. Xie Dengke, a spokesperson for the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said at a State Council press conference that the restrictions come as part of what it deems to be a “people’s war” aimed at bringing order to the online environment.
- 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.
- 4th June: NetBlocks confirms that the internet was disrupted in Myanmar from 5pm local time coinciding with National Unity Government (NUG) press conference live broadcast – incident duration 1 hour and further background given here.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 28th April: The European Parliament has voted through a new law to address ‘the dissemination of terrorist content online’. It says that terrorist content must be removed within one hour, but ‘content uploaded for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes, or used for awareness-raising purposes, will not be considered terrorist content’. Some have criticised the move, arguing that over-zealous algorithmic filters could inadvertently hinder free speech.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 4th June: Facebook has suspended former US President, Donald Trump, for two years, in a move that VP of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, says is based on “new enforcement protocols to be applied in exceptional cases such as this.” The ban comes in response to Trump’s praise for people engaged in violence at the Capitol on the 6th January, and Clegg goes onto say: “Of course, this penalty only applies to our services — Mr. Trump is and will remain free to express himself publicly via other means.” In response to the action, the Facebook Oversight Board said that it was “encouraged that Facebook is adopting many of the Board’s policy recommendations in the case involving former US President Donald Trump.”
- 2nd June: New research published by The University of Glasgow as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) has analysed how eight government and parliamentary reports and inquiries over an 18-month period have highlighted and set the agenda for platform regulation. The analysis revealed that 80 distinct online harms have been reviewed during the period. “Fake news, cyber-attacks, predatory acquisitions. Dangerous things are happening on online platforms,” said report co-Author, Martin Kretschmer, Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre (CREATe).
- 24th May: BBC Chairman, Richard Sharp, says that the company will launch a review into its editorial practices, following “failures of accountability and transparency” that existed until 2020. In a statement, the Company’s Board said that it would: “look at the culture of the BBC as part of its remit to assess the effectiveness of policies and practice. This work will be undertaken by a group of non-executive Board Directors led by Sir Nick Serota, the BBC’s Senior Independent Director, and supported by Ian Hargreaves and Sir Robbie Gibb, non-executive members of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and Standards Committee. It will report to the Board by September.”
- 23rd May: As the BBC finds itself increasingly under-fire following the results of the Lord Dyson report into the company’s 1995 Princess Diana interview, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel tells the Sunday morning politics shows: “Next year is an opportunity when it comes to the midterm review of the BBC charter for government and the BBC to absolutely look at new ways of governance of the institution, the organisation,” and did not rule out the idea of an external editorial board.
North & South America
- 24th May: Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs & Communications, Nick Clegg, has penned an op-ed piece for CNBC, outlining 4 key areas in which Congress can adopt a bipartisan approach to ‘break the deadlock on internet regulation’, inclusive of: reform of Section 230, protection against ‘influence operations’, breaking the deadlock on federal privacy legislation, and setting out clear rules on ‘data portability’.
- 10th May: This week, the News Media Alliance will host virtual meetings between newspaper executives and their members of Congress to advocate for the passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), also known as the ‘Safe Harbor bill.’ Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, said: As we have seen in Australia and Europe, the world is moving toward new compensation systems for publishers. A healthy democracy needs quality journalism now more than ever, and we must ensure that the digital ecosystem returns value back to the people who create that journalism.”
- 5th May: The Facebook Oversight Board, an independent body set-up in October 2020 to rule on content moderation decisions made by the platform, has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7 to suspend then-President Trump from Facebook and Instagram. However, the board also found that Facebook violated its own rules by imposing a suspension that was ‘indefinite.’ Former UK Deputy Prime Minister and now Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications for Facebook, Nick Clegg, spoke to the FT just hours after the ruling, and also took the opportunity to comment on Apple’s decision to make third-party app-tracking opt-in.
- 4th May: The Apple vs Epic trial got underway in California today, with the Fortnite developer asserting that the tech company should not be allowed to go on requiring the use of its own payments technology (of which Apple takes a 30% cut) for in-App purchases. As reported by CNN, the trial ‘could fuel a fierce courtroom battle over app store policies, which are increasingly under scrutiny by regulators in Europe, lawmakers in the United States and many others.’
- 27th April: Facebook, Twitter, and this time YouTube rather than Google were called to the Capitol again, on this occasion to discuss the addictive nature of their algorithms. US State Senator, Chris Coons, said that greater controls needed to be imposed on media tech companies, “Whether voluntary, regulatory, or legislative”.
- 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.