Global Media Tech Regulation Tracker – March 2023
Welcome to the FIPP Global Media Tech Regulation Tracker! This live doc is updated monthly, bringing you the latest policy, regulatory, and legal updates from around the media tech world.
Feb 24th: Digiday has the latest on several cases that are being examined by the US Supreme Court that it says sheds additional light on brand safety, the pace of innovation, and the future of digital advertising.
In late February the USA’s highest court heard separate oral arguments about Google and Twitter, and whether social networks should be held responsible for terrorist content that families of victims claim led to the deaths of their relatives. And although the focus of each case is quite narrow, experts say the stakes are much higher andcould have a potentially far broader impact on the future of free speech, content moderation and how platforms sell advertising.
“It could transform both the ways that ads are hosted and recommended on the algorithms and also the way non-advertising content is recommended,” said Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center, a nonpartisan nonprofit focused on constitutional education.
Feb 24th: Facebook’s owner Meta says it will now give content violators up to seven chances before sending them to Facebook jail, reports Fortune. Yet the reprieve only applies to minor violations. Offences that Meta’s deems to be more serious will still be met with temporary or even permanent bans
Feb 17th: Techxplore reports that TikTok, Twitter, Apple Store, Amazon and several other online platforms have announced user figures in Europe that bring them under stricter EU regulations for policing internet content.
The companies published their numbers ahead of a deadline made compulsory under the new EU Digital Services Act (DSA) that puts internet behemoths operating in Europe under monitoring by the European Commission.
The platforms all said they had more than 45 million monthly active “recipients” of their services. That is the threshold above which they are categorised as a “Very Large Online Platform” (VLOP) or a “Very Large Online Search Engine” (VLOSE) under the DSA.
Jan 31st: A top European Union official told Elon Musk on Tuesday that Twitter Inc. will have to do more over the coming months to prepare for the bloc’s new social-media regulations.
Reported in the WSJ Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market, told Mr. Musk during a video call that there were only a few months left before major online platforms like Twitter will have to be fully compliant with the Digital Services Act. Mr. Musk has previously said that he intends to comply with the EU’s new rules.
Jan 17th: FIPP has the lowdown on the current state of play in the US on the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would, if passed, force social media companies to compensate news content producers for the content that is shared on the former’s platforms.
The bill’s future looks uncertain though. Writing in Columbia Journalism Review Emily Bell, says she thinks that “alternative potential federally mandated funding sources are unlikely to pass in a Republican-controlled House.” The recent undignified spat over the election of the speaker of the House would also suggest that enacting legislation in the coming years could also be problematic. So the bill in its current format is dead for now.”
The article also reports that in 2022 the UK Government also suggested it was considering Australian-style regulation forcing big tech to partner with the media. Press Gazette concluded that a similar deal to the Australian would yield as much as £170 million per year for publishers. It hasn’t yet followed up with any proposed legislation.
Jan 10th: The Reuters Institute has published its annual Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions. Among its findings are that journalists are concerned about how forthcoming regulations on online harm might impact their work
With more legislation planned this year to restrict ‘harmful’ content on social media, many respondents (54%) worry that these new rules could make it harder for journalists and news organisations to publish stories that governments don’t like. Around a third (30%) are less worried and 14% are not worried at all.
Jan 3rd: Politico has a story that the legislative run-in between the world governments and the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, are really only a sideshow. The big issues will come at the launch of the proposed X-app later this year.
The idea behind X-app is a Western version of WeChat, the Chinese super-app that more than a billion people use for messaging, payments, shopping, rideshares, gaming, news and other daily activities.
“WeChat has a lot of functionality that Twitter should have,” says Musk
But building a “super-app” like WeChat is a far more complicated challenge than Twitter, with far more points of conflict with regulators in Washington, California, Brussels and elsewhere. Nothing like it exists yet in the West, and it could create a “regulatory nightmare,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, the deputy director for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit that advocates for privacy reform.
Feb 27th: Various stakeholders have warned that the draft National Media Development Policy released by Papua New Guinea’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on February 5 could undermine media freedom if approved by the government.
Asia Pacific Report says that the DICT asked stakeholders to share their input within 12 days, but this was extended for another week after Papua New Guinea’s Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC) criticised the short period for the consultation process.
The draft policy lays the framework “for the use of media as a tool for development.” The state emphasised that “it includes provisions for the regulation of media, ensuring press freedom and the protection of journalists, and promoting media literacy among the population.”
Jan 19th: Australia is continuing its tough stance against spreaders of disinformation by considering a new bill that will impose a compulsory code of conduct for digital platforms. Michelle Rowland, the communications minister said that the Australian Communications and Media Authority will also be given new information-gathering powers to assess how platforms, including social media companies, respond to misinformation and disinformation.
The move , which was reported in The Guardian, follows the Digital Industry Group Inc – whose members include Google, Apple, Meta, Twitter and TikTok – toughening up its voluntary code of conduct in December.
Jan 19th: The Australian government is putting pressure on Influencers and content creators on social media to come clean about their commercial deals and income streams.
The country’s key media watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has launched a national sweep of online platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, and is warning those with large followings to be more up-front about whether they are getting paid for product placement. More from ABC.
Jan 16th: The recently elected Brazilian government helmed by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has reportedly got social media practices on its radar and is planning a wide variety of new regulations.
The Brazilian Report says that the new administration will push through a bill, which stalled in Congress last year, and create a regulatory framework for both social media and the media generally. Among the topics it hopes to address are the sustainability of journalism and the protection of individual and collective rights.
Jan 9th: Facebook owner Meta has removed posts from the platform that praised or supported the anti-democratic demonstrators in Brazil who early in January stormed the Supreme Court and presidential palace.
CBS reports that Meta is working on efforts related to Brazil’s election, such as removing posts that questioned the legitimacy of votes.
Feb 25th: Canada’s ongoing run in with Google over content has taken yet another turn. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in late February it was a “terrible mistake” for Alphabet Inc’s Google to block news content in reaction to a government bill that would compel the tech giant to pay publishers in Canada for news content.
Google said this week it was testing blocking some Canadian users’ access to news as a potential response to the Trudeau government’s “Online News Act,” which is expected to be passed into law.
Trudeau, speaking to reporters in Toronto, said the blocking of news in Canada was an issue “bothering” him.
“It really surprises me that Google has decided that they’d rather prevent Canadians from accessing news than actually paying journalists for the work they do,” he said.
“I think that’s a terrible mistake and I know Canadians expect journalists to be well paid for the work they do.”
Dec 15th: Calls for more scrutiny of Tik Tok come as countries around the world make moves to prohibit the controversial social media app based in mainland China. In an article in the Toronto Star Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong insists that Ottawa must investigate TikTok over national security concerns as more jurisdictions in the United States move on banning the controversial social media app based in mainland China.
Chong said the app’s reach and ability to manipulate algorithms and laws in China requiring companies there to cooperate with the government, including on intelligence operations, could present a national security threat to Canada. “I think the government needs to take this threat much more seriously than they have,” Chong said. “If you look at what our closest allies have done, they’ve all taken some action.”
He said algorithms could be manipulated for foreign influence operations, such as pushing disinformation meant to politically divide Canadians, and data the app collects on Canadians themselves could be used in espionage operations.
Feb 27th: Chinese media regulators are studying measures to curb addiction among youths to short videos, says Bloomberg.
The National Radio and Television Administration held a meeting Feb. 22 to consider ways to tighten oversight of the short video industry. The powerful agency called for the sector’s “healthy development” and improvements in content quality.
Feb 23rd: The Guardian reports that Chinese regulators have reportedly clamped down on access to ChatGPT, as Chinese tech firms and universities push forward with developing domestic artificial intelligence bots.
ChatGPT, the discussion bot created by US-based OpenAI, is not officially available in China, where the government operates a comprehensive firewall and strict internet censorship. But many had been accessing it via VPNs, and some third-party developers had produced programs that gave some access to the service.
Jan 22nd: The New York Times reports on how China is attempting to tackle the growing problem of deep fakes. The country has adopted expansive rules requiring that manipulated material have the subject’s consent and bear digital signatures or watermarks, and that deep fake service providers offer ways to “refute rumours.”
The NYT adds that China faces the same hurdles that have stymied other efforts to govern deep fakes: The worst abusers of the technology tend to be the hardest to catch, operating anonymously, adapting quickly and sharing their synthetic creations through borderless online platforms.
Feb 25th: Ongoing discussions about the impact of the Metaverse have been covered by Being Crypto. EU Commissioner Yvo Volman said in late February that metaverse regulations must prevent discrimination and protect user privacy.
Speaking at the DG Connect event in Brussels, Data Director Yvo Volman said that the bloc must consider issues of inclusion, equality, and user privacy protection in its upcoming legislation, slated for May 2023.
While acknowledging the potential for the metaverse in surgery and learning, he emphasised that people must be equipped with tools to protect themselves in these virtual spaces.
Feb 24th: The Conversation has more details on the new regulatory framework: the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).
Introducing the new framework, EU commissioner Thierry Breton said it contains “[…]common safeguards at EU level to guarantee a plurality of voices and that our media are able to operate without any interference, be it private or public.“
He said a new European watchdog would be set up to ensure transparency in media ownership. Another key feature will require EU member states to test the impact of media market concentrations on media pluralism and editorial independence.
Feb 23rd: EU Observer has an interesting take on how the EU might respond to the threats and opportunities posed by AI. It says the launch of ChatGPT in November last year has sparked a worldwide debate on Artificial Intelligence systems. Amidst Big Tech’s proclamations that these AI systems will revolutionise our daily lives, the companies are engaged in a fierce lobbying battle to water down regulations.
In April 2021, EU commissioners Margarethe Vestager and Thierry Breton presented a proposal for a European legal framework on AI. It was celebrated as the first global attempt to regulate AI — a technology that, as the commission observed, would “have an enormous impact on the way people live and work in the coming decades.”
Jan 30th: CNBC reports on the latest discussions the EU is having about Tik Tok
EU Commissioner of the Internal Market Thierry Breton warned TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew in a meeting this month the bloc could ban the app if it didn’t comply with new rules on digital content well ahead of a September 1 deadline.
That’s a marked shift from the EU’s near silence on TikTok, while U.S. lawmakers have been aggressive — banning the app from federal devices in December over national security concerns. A proposed bipartisan bill also seeks to block the app from operating in the U.S.
Jan 24th: Tech HQ has a story about how companies need to up their game to meet the demands of Europe’s GDPR legislation on data use and security. In the article Sasha Grujicic, Chief Operating Officer at NowVertical, a company specialising in big data and analytics, outlined the potential benefits companies can unlock by being prepared to meet the demands – or at least the spirit – of data privacy rules like Europe’s GDPR legislation. Among them, the opportunity to not be fined $414 million while working with other people’s data.
Jan 23rd: Concerned about the direction of travel of Twitter since its take over by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, EU politicians are pushing legislation that will force online platforms to remove ‘disinformation.’
The European Commission’s Vice President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová warned Elon Musk from the World Economic Forum in Davos that Twitter will face “sanctions” if it does not shut down some forms of speech.
She said Twitter may face penalties for enabling free speech in violation of European Union regulations. “The time of the Wild West is over.”
“We will have the Digital Services Act [DSA]. We will have the Code of Practice as a part of this legislation,” Jourová said. “So, after Mr. Musk took over Twitter with his ‘freedom of speech absolutism’ – we are the protectors of freedom of speech as well. But at the same time, we cannot accept, for instance, illegal content online and so on. So, our message was clear: we have rules which have to be complied with, otherwise there will be sanctions.” More on Fox News.
Feb 27th: The Hindu has an update on how the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules which were issued two years ago through which the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) are being observed.
It says the body was given the task of regulating content on OTT and online platforms. India’s approach can be termed as a light-touch ‘co-regulation’ model where there is ‘self-regulation’ at the industry level and final ‘oversight mechanism’ at the Ministry level.
Jan 25th: Exchange4Media reports on an interesting discussion about the future of laws governing media in the country. Several of the participants suggested that while the country has good laws governing the media they are not always as enforced as they should. The discussion also covered the impact that AI-driven content generator Chat GPT could have on the country’s media.
Jan 20th: The Economic Times has a story about the latest moves in India to protect the media, by coming to an agreement with social media companies to pay for the news that is shared on its platforms, The article notes that while India has not yet passed any legislation similar to recent acts in Canada and Australia, it may need to threaten regulations in order to bring tech companies to the negotiating table.
Dec 15th: Medianama reports that India Will Chart Its Own Path In Regulating The Internet, Not Merely Follow EU: IT Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar
Chandrasekhar’s comments suggest that the upcoming regulations governing the internet in India are unlikely to follow the EU. “European GDPR is considered a gold standard for privacy and data protection. But we would like to disagree.
With more than 820 million internet users, we have the largest presence on the global internet and deserve an opportunity to shape our own destiny. We will chart our own course and build a framework suitable for us,” Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar remarked at the India Global Forum held in Dubai on December 14, a press release from the IT ministry said.
Feb 22nd: AI chatbots are likely to face scrutiny in the long-discussed Online Safety Bill reports TechRadar
The website highlights how Lord Stephen Parkinson, a junior Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, confirmed the plans to include AI-generated content into the scope of the proposed legislation.
This comes as both search engines and social media platforms are in the process of integrating their service with software like ChatGPT, revealing the potential risks involved with artificial intelligence tools.
Currently being discussed in the House of Lord, the Online Safety Bill’s end goal is “to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online” by making tech executives liable for breaching rules. “Content generated by artificial intelligence ‘bots’ is in scope of the Bill, where it interacts with user-generated content, such as on Twitter. Search services using AI-powered features will also be in scope of the search duties outlined in the Bill,” said Lord Parkinson, The Telegraph reported.
Jan 22nd: How tech can potentially make live streams safe for younger audiences is the subject of a lengthy story published in the Financial Times. The article reports on the response from Meta, Tik Tok, YouTube and others to ensure that incidents of self harm are not broadcast. Tech companies are exploring tactics such as more effective age verification techniques and encryption to counter claims that they are not doing enough to prevent the distribution of the harmful content.
Jan 17th: The Financial Times reports that social media bosses who fail to protect under 18s from online harm could face jail. The legislation, which is currently going through the House of Commons could also empower Ofcom to impose large fines on groups that don’t comply with the law.
The legislation comes after a series of high profile cases involving teenager suicides whose motives may have been influenced by social media posts.
Dec 7th: BBC Director-General Tim Davie has argued that the BBC, politicians, regulators, and the wider industry must urgently work together to secure the future of a thriving, trusted, world-leading UK media market, as we transition towards an internet-only world.
In a speech hosted by the Royal Television Society he added that the industry is facing choices over its future and must take bold decisions to ensure our much-admired creative, cultural, and democratic strength and values prevail, he said.
Failure to seize this moment could see this lost to polarised platforms and overseas content, Davie said.
Feb 24th: Lawmakers across the US are pushing a variety of bills aimed at boosting privacy protection for kids’ personal information, limiting their access to social media without parental involvement, or keeping them off of sites that include explicit content such as pornography.
The measures would rely on companies like Meta Platforms, Inc., Alphabet Inc., and TikTok Inc. to know how old their online users are—posing the conundrum of determining age without gathering too much sensitive information about a person’s identity.
More from BloombergLaw
Jan 31st: Editor and Publisher reported how seven leading journalism, media and pro-consumer antitrust advocacy organisations sent a joint letter to President Biden calling on him to highlight, in his upcoming State of the Union address on Feb. 7, the importance of local journalism.
The letter stressed the urgent need for congressional action to preserve a strong democracy and a free press. Specifically, the letter urges President Biden to call on Congress to advance the bipartisan Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) (S. 673 and H.R. 1735). The legislation which would give small, local news outlets the ability to join together in negotiations that will level the playing field with Big Tech platforms, was mothballed at the end of 2022.
Jan 24th: Republican senator Josh Hawley is to introduce legislation to ban TikTok in the US, according to a statement Tuesday, one month after a bill—sponsored by the Republican legislator—banning the social media app from federal devices was approved by Congress.
“TikTok is China’s backdoor into Americans’ lives,” Hawley tweeted, explaining that he planned to introduce the broader ban but did not yet offer any, claiming the app “threatens our children’s privacy as well as their mental health.” More from Forbes.
Jan 13th: Press Gazette has an interesting discussion on the reservations the US journalists union has about the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, which would effectively force social media companies to pay a fee to publishers for the content they use.
Jon Schleuss, the president of the Newsguild, explained “Our qualms with the JCPA were that it needed to tie money to jobs. In the States we’ve got a lot of private equity and hedge funds buying up and controlling a lot of newsrooms,” he told Press Gazette.
Schleuss cited organisations like Alden Global Capital, which owns the Tribune Publishing newspapers, Chatham Asset Management, which owns the McClatchy chain, and publicly-traded local publishing giant Gannett, which also runs Newsquest in the UK.
“They just extract cash. And so they see newsrooms with a lot of assets where they can cut. So like – ‘Oh, there’s real estate’… they sell the real estate and often pocket the money.”
Jan 8th: The FT has an opinion piece from Marietje Schaake, international policy director at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center who argues that the US isn’t moving fast enough in enacting regulations on its tech sector.
She suggests that the US is lagging behind the EU in approving regulations to govern issues like online harm, media ownership, and especially directives over the use of AI to create content.