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 world, we keep track of the latest developments in media tech as they occur.
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- 18th February: Google is set to make changes to its Android operating system that aims to cut back on the amount of tracking it allows. Google’s changes aim to limit the sharing of user data with third parties by restricting the amount of data that is collected across different applications. The changes are similar to those introduced by Apple. In fact, Apple’s changes led Facebook’s recently rebranded parent company Meta to declare that Apples changes alone would cost the company $10 billion in revenue. More from PCGamer
- 3rd February: Facebook’s latest quarterly figures have not impressed investors with $200 billion wiped off the company’s market value. The massive stock drop is the result of its first-ever quarterly decline of daily users globally, coupled with lower-than-expected ad growth. User growth was flat across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, with the main Facebook app losing one million daily users in its most lucrative market – North America. It fell to 1.929 billion daily users from 1.93 billion the previous quarter, read the full story on FIPP.
- 2nd February: The third instalment of IPG’s Mediabrands and MAGNA units Media Responsibility Index (MRI) has now been released, with an exclusive first look in Digiday. The report seeks to provide an unbiased view of the practices of social media platforms across areas such as data collection and use, misinformation levels, advertising transparency, limiting hate speech, and so on. Twitter emerged as having the best overall performance in these areas, and you can view the full Digiday report here.
- 25th January: Twitter says that it received a total of approximately 12,400 government information requests during the period Jan – Jun 2021. This was 15% down on the same period of the previous year, but compliance rates with total requests were up 21%. The platform has now received government information requests from 98 different countries since 2012, including South Africa and the State of Palestine, which appeared in this report for the first time. You can view the full findings here.
- 25th January: Vinay Goel, the Production Manager in charge of Google’s FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) technology, has told the Financial Times that the initiative is to be scrapped after “feedback” from publishers. The company’s next move appears to be the introduction instead of ‘Topics’, a replacement methodology for tracking user interests. The move comes as German publishers (see below) launch a complaint to the EU about the company’s broader decision to remove third-party cookies.
- 20th January: Twitter Blue – the subscription-based version of the social media site, which is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – has launched a feature that allows users to replace their traditional profile pictures with an NFT. The new images will be hexagonal in shape, and linked directly to users public crypto wallet address.
- 10th January: The Reuters Institute has published its ‘Journalism, media, and technology trends and predictions 2022’ report, inclusive of specific focus on big tech regulation. The report states: “The argument that ‘something should be done’ now appears to be won and we are moving rapidly towards implementation on multiple fronts, including anti-trust, privacy, safety, and more.” You can read in full here.
- 5th January: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) publishes a piece titled ‘How social media regulation could affect the press’ in which it warns that increasing calls to regulate social media platforms need to be carefully balanced against the need to protect free speech: “States like the UK,” writes CPJ Global Technology Researcher, Alicia Ceccanese, which set out to prevent platforms from censoring journalistic posts in the draft safety bill, face thorny questions about whose posts merit protection and how regulations should be enforced.” Full article here.
- 3rd January: ‘Is big tech too big?’ asks the World Economic Forum in its latest episode of its stakeholder Capitalism video podcast. The series looks at how economies can be transformed to serve people and the planet, and this latest episodeexplores the role of technology in society, with insights from Zia Qureshi, a fellow at the Brookings Institute; and Marietje Schaake, a former member of the European Parliament for the Netherlands.
Africa & Middle East
- 19th February: Africa Heads of Competition Dialogue have committed to expanding dialogue on how digital markets impact the local and global economy, says a report in Kenyan newspaper The Star. In a statement, the heads of competition from Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritius, Egypt and Kenya acknowledged that digital services are rapidly transforming the global economy and have opened new economic opportunities, challenging traditional markets. “These markets present considerable challenges for competition law enforcement and policy in terms of the unique competition issues that arise,” the statement read.
- 9th January: allAfrica says that ‘Dictators in Africa [are] Using Social Media to Cling to Power’, and cites Uganda as a recent example: “In early 2021,” writes Silja Fröhlich, “Facebook (Meta) deactivated more than 20 accounts linked to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party. Shortly afterward, Twitter also followed suit, closing 11% of the nearly 3,500 accounts worldwide that allegedly spread pro-government propaganda.” Full article here.
- 2nd February: Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information & Culture, is seeking to introduce greater social media regulations via the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act amendment bill, according to TheCable. The bill seeks to empower the commission with the power to regulate social media, internet broadcasting, fix tariffs for pay television services, among other functions.
- 13th January: The country’s seven month ban on Twitter has finally been lifted, after the company met with the government’s demands. These included insisting that Twitter: Register in Nigeria, appoint a designated country representative, comply with tax obligations, enrol Nigeria in its portal for direct communications between government officials and Twitter to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules, and act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws. The BBC has the full story here.
- 22nd February: South Africa’s Film and Publication Board (FPB) has published draft guidelines for public comment on the classification of films, games and certain publications, which could see any videos posted online undergo the same scrutiny as movies and TV shows. Law firm Webber Wentzel has warned that the changes could have far-reaching implications that go beyond existing and envisioned legislation to regulate online harms. “The rapid uptick in the use of varied information-sharing channels has resulted in adults and children accessing large quantities of data, often from unreliable, and in some instances dangerous, sources,” the firm explained. More details here.
- 23rd January: The country’s eSafety Commissioner has welcomed the commencement of the Online Safety Act, which has now come into force. The legislation provides additional protections for Australians in the fight against online harms, and means that Australian adults who are being bullied online will be able to report incidents directly to the department. “These new laws cement eSafety’s role as a world leader in online safety. They place Australia at the international forefront in the fight against online abuse and harm – providing additional protections for Australians in the fight against online harms through our approach of prevention, protection, and proactive change in the online space,” said eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.
- 13th February: China’s technology giants are beginning to invest in the metaverse, but it will be a highly regulated environment says CNBC. It believes that in the Chinese metaverse censorship will likely be rife and regulation tight as Beijing continues to keep a close check on the practices of its domestic technology firms.
- 1st February: The Guardian reports that gay dating app Grindr has disappeared from multiple app stores in the country, as the authorities look to clamp down on online behaviours that the Communist Party dislikes: “Although the world’s most populous nation decriminalised homosexuality in 1997, same-sex marriage is illegal and LGBTQ issues remain taboo. The LGBTQ community is under pressure, with web content censored and depictions of gay romance in films banned.”
- 7th January: CNBC runs with a story titled ‘China’s next regulatory target — algorithms, the secret of many tech giants’ success’ and says that new rules governing the way companies operate algorithms will come into play in March. According to the report, the rules include allowing users to select and delete keywords that are used to target them and opt out of using algorithmic recommendation services. Full story here.
- 2nd February: Numerous sources including Al Jazeera report that ministers from the country’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) have held ‘heated discussions’ with Google, Twitter and Facebook, for their failure to remove fake news: “The officials… said their inaction on fake news was forcing the Indian government to order content takedowns, which in turn drew international criticism that authorities were suppressing free expression, two sources said.”
- 28th January: Google is to invest up to US$1 billion in a partnership with Airtel as part of its Google for India Digitization Fund. The deal includes investment of $700M to acquire a 1.28% stake in Airtel and up to $300M toward potential multi-year commercial agreements. The partnership will focus on enabling affordable access to smartphones across price ranges, and will continue to explore building on their existing partnerships to potentially co-create India-specific network domain use cases for 5G and other standards, and help accelerate the cloud ecosystem for businesses across India. Full story here.
- 7th January: According to Reuters, India’s competition watchdog has ordered an investigation into Alphabet Inc’s Google following allegations from news publishers that the tech giant has broken antitrust laws and imposed unfair conditions on some news publishers. The complaint was raised by the country’s Digital News Publishers Association. You can read the full article here.
- 25th January: Wired runs a story titled ‘The EU Has a Plan to Fix Internet Privacy: Be More Like Apple’, which says that lawmakers effectively want all websites to use a similar “Ask App Not to Track” function as provided across the company’s platform. MEPs recently voted in favour of an amendment to the Digital Services Act (DSA) stating that removing ad-tracking should be no more difficult than providing it.
- 11th January: As the EU steps up its attempt to regulate big tech, the FT reports that Google has embarked upon a ‘last-ditch lobbying attempt to influence incoming EU tech rules’. Alderik Oosthoek, a policy adviser at the European Parliament quoted in the article, wrote on Twitter: “I’m being targeted with a nearly unrecognisable ad aimed at EU officials promoting false info and solely referring to studies of IAB.”
- 10th January: The European Commission has published an open public consultation on the upcoming European Media Freedom Act, a landmark initiative announced by President von der Leyen in her 2021 State of the Union address to safeguard the pluralism and independence of the media in the EU internal market. Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, said: “Media are a pillar of democracy. But today this pillar is cracking, with attempts by governments and private groups to put pressure on the media.” Full statement here.
- 24th January: A group of German publishers, including Axel Springer, have raised a complaint with the EU alleging that Google’s decision to end third-party cookies is in breach of EU law. The group says that the retirement of cookies puts both publishers and advertisers at a disadvantage, reducing their ability to target, and favours Google’s own advertising business. FIPP Reporter, Ashley Norris, takes a deep-dive here.
- 5th January: The German Cartel Office says that Google will be subject to “extended abuse control rules” outlined in the German Competition Act reform, which entered into force in January last year. In a declaration published here and reported by Politico here, the body says that it can now take action against specific anti-competitive practices by Google, while a spokesperson added that Apple, Amazon and Meta are also being examined.
- 18th February: Ireland’s data protection authorities will soon rule on the legality of methods used by platforms like Facebook and Google to transfer European data to the U.S. in the absence of a larger agreement between the two. If the Irish double down on a preliminary decision that declared so-called standard contractual clauses illegal, U.S.-based tech companies could lose one of the only remaining ways to ship European data across the Atlantic. Bloomberg has the full story here
- 1st February: The Irish Times reports that Google has been given the green light to develop a new office campus in Dublin for 1,700 workers. The company, which already has its European, Middle East & Africa headquarters in the country, employing more than 8,000 workers, purchased the famous Treasury Building for Treasury Building for €120 million two years ago.
- 25th January: The country’s newly-published Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, has today been initiated in Seanad Éireann for consideration for enactment. The Media Commission will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and be responsible for overseeing updated regulations for broadcasting and video on-demand services and the new regulatory framework for online safety created by the Bill. The Bill will also transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive into Irish law, including the regulation of video-sharing platform services as part of the regulatory framework for online safety. More here.
- 3rd January: Portugal’s biggest media company, Impresa, was the subject of a significant cyber-attack last week, as hackers not only brought down both the Expresso newspaper and SIC TV, but also reportedly published a ransom note on the company’s websites. Reuters has the full story here.
- 21st February: The United Kingdom could introduce a law forcing tech companies like Meta and Google to pay media outlets for featuring their stories in content feeds or search results. The country’s culture minister Nadine Dorries is looking at implementing a similar system to the one introduced in Australia last year, calling her plans “Australia plus plus” and “Australia with bolts on”. Full story here.
- 21st February: Britain has waded into a battle between Google and Facebook over planned privacy changes The Telegraph reports that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would “closely monitor” Google’s plans to block advert-tracking technology on more than 3bn Android phones. Google, which owns the Android operating system, dealt a blow to advertisers last week when it said it would restrict how they can track smartphone owners’ activity across various apps. The changes follow similar restrictions Apple has introduced on iPhones and are touted as a boost to privacy.
- 18th February: Plans to create the democratic world’s strictest internet safety rules have won the backing of the UK cabinet, despite protests from the tech industry that Britain will become a “global outlier” in internet regulation. A revised Online Safety bill will give Ofcom, the communications regulator, powers to require internet companies to use technology to proactively seek out and remove both “illegal content and [legal] content which is harmful to children”. More from the FT
- 2nd February: The UK government is planning to introduce Australian-style regulations that will force social media companies like Facebook and Google to pay newspapers for using their stories. The platforms will be asked to negotiate payment deals with news organisations and if an agreement can’t be reached then a price will be set by an independent arbitrator. Full story here.
- 28th January: A new report published by customer-interactions platform Braze says that UK brands are unprepared for the impending third-party cookie phaseout. With new privacy updates from Apple and Google coming into force, as well as a deluge of data surfacing from new digital sources, UK marketers are facing a challenging 2022, the report says. Full story here.
- 27th January: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched an in-depth study into the booming music streaming market, according to The Guardian. The report will assess whether the big record labels and services such as Spotify hold “excessive power”, and whether artists and fans are getting a fair deal.
- 19th January: The Government is consulting on new laws to provide greater protection for UK firms against cyberattacks. Minister of State for Media, Data, and Digital Infrastructure, Julia Lopez, said: “Cyber attacks are often made possible because criminals and hostile states cynically exploit vulnerabilities in businesses’ digital supply chains and outsourced IT services that could be fixed or patched. The plans we are announcing today will help protect essential services and our wider economy from cyber threats. Every UK organisation must take their cyber resilience seriously as we strive to grow, innovate and protect people online. It is not an optional extra.”
- 1st January: In an opinion piece for The Guardian, titled ‘As a new year dawns, expect a fresh assault on big tech’, The Open University’s John Naughton says that “Democracies have finally begun to confront the internet giants and their unrivalled and untrammelled power.” In the, he compares the assertion made by social media companies that consumers are responsible for their own vaccine information intake to that made by the oil companies when they came up with the idea of the ‘carbon footprint’, which places the blame for climate change on individuals, and not at their door.
North & South America
- 16th February: California lawmakers are considering introducing a new bill to protect children’s data online, mirroring the UK’s recently introduced children’s code, as part of growing momentum globally for stricter regulation on Big Tech. The California age appropriate design code bill will require many of the world’s biggest tech platforms headquartered in the state — such as social media group Meta and Google’s YouTube — to limit the amount of data they collect from young users and the location tracking of children in the state. More from the FT here.
- 16th February: US senators are pushing to curb the potentially harmful impacts of social media on young people with a new bill targeting tech platforms’ handling of content surrounding issues such as eating disorders, substance abuse and suicide. The new bipartisan legislation, known as the Kids Online Safety Act, was introduced by Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn. It marks the latest example of how Congress is flexing its regulatory power over the tech industry as lawmakers have advanced a slew of bills to rein in the industry. More from CNN
- 3rd February: Massachusetts’s state lawmakers have advanced the Massachusetts Information Privacy and Security Act (MIPSA), a digital-privacy bill that would protect the residents’ safety and privacy, giving them more autonomy over personal information in the digital world. If the bill passes, Massachusetts would be the fourth state joining Colorado, Virginia, and California to enact comprehensive data-privacy legislation. The core elements of MIPSA include the right for people to opt out from targeted advertising, opt-in consent for most sales information and a user’s right to access, delete, correct and transport personal information that a company maintains about them. both the sale of their personal information and targeted advertising. More from AdWeek
- 2nd February: New regulations that could lay the groundwork to bar TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps that present national security concerns, are in the pipeline says the Washington Post. It reports that the Commerce Department is reviewing comments on proposed rules that would expand government oversight of apps that could be exploited “by foreign adversaries to steal or otherwise obtain data,” according to a federal filing. The rules could allow the Commerce Department to require apps to submit to audits, allowing independent scrutiny of their source code and other data they collect.
- 25th January: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a report titled ‘Social media a gold mine for scammers in 2021’, which says that more than 95,000 people reported about $770 million in losses to fraud initiated on social media platforms during the course of the year. Reports are up for every age group, but people 18 to 39 were more than twice as likely as older adults to report losing money to these scams in 2021.
- 14th January: A new lawsuit being brought against Google alleges that the tech giant manipulated advertising sales improperly. The accusation states that Google inflated the price of advertisements for brands and suppressed competition from other ad-exchanges. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook and Google signed off on a deal to assure that the latter would bid on – and win – a certain percentage of ads.
- 10th January: After Apple made history in becoming the world’s first US$3tn company last week, big tech stocks have dipped again on Wall Street. Reuters says that “some investors worry big tech stocks may have a tougher time delivering big gains this year, in the face of stretched valuations, expectations of higher Treasury yields and a more hawkish Federal Reserve.”
- 22nd February: Is Canada going to adopt tougher digital legislation. Devdiscourse has an update. It says Canada is known as being a pioneer in fields like science and tech. Despite this, it is not always a place that leads the pack when it comes to digital laws. In fact, Canada can often lag behind its neighbors in North America and countries from Europe, such as the UK, when it comes to comprehensive digital legislation for its citizens.