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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- 7th October: Google has announced that it will ban ads showing climate change denial. On its support site, the company said: “Today, we’re announcing a new monetization policy for Google advertisers, publishers and YouTube creators that will prohibit ads for, and monetization of, content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around the existence and causes of climate change. This includes content referring to climate change as a hoax or a scam, claims denying that long-term trends show the global climate is warming, and claims denying that greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.”
- 6th October: Mark Zuckerberg has refuted the claims made by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, and others in their negative portrayal of the company. In a note to staff, which he later posted on his own Facebook, the CEO said: “At the most basic level, I think most of us just don’t recognize the false picture of the company that is being painted. Many of the claims don’t make any sense.”
- 5th October: Frances Haugen, a former Product Manager for Facebook, has today testified at the US Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. In her opening statement, she said: “I’m here today because I believe Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy. The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.” More on NBC News here.
- 5th October: Facebook experienced a mass global outage on Monday, which lasted for around six hours and also took out Instagram and WhatsApp. In a statement on the company’s engineering blog, VP of Infrastructure, Santosh Janardhan, said that the issue had been traced to a data centre issue, and that there was “no evidence that user data was compromised as a result of this downtime.”
- 5th October: Facebook has today announced its list of 2021 Community Accelerator Participants. The 8 month programme includes 131 individuals who have been selected from 13,000 applications, representing a diverse array of communities and addressing a range of global challenges, including those related to education, diversity and inclusion, equality, health and well-being and parenting. Through the program, Facebook will be awarding over US$7M in funding to Accelerator participants to support work that advances their communities’ goals.
Africa & Middle East
- 7th October: Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, has announced that the company plans to invest US $1bn in the country over five years to support digital transformation. This includes a range of initiatives, from improved connectivity to investments in start-ups. Full article here.
- 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.”
- 27th September: Ashraf Ghani, who served as the last President of Afghanistan until the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last month, says that his Facebook account has been hacked. The declaration comes after the page posted an update saying that the world should “extend a hand of friendship” to the Taliban, which was refuted as a legitimate post via his official Twitter account 30 minutes later.
- 27th September: Senior BBC Pashto Journalist, Khudai Noor Nasar, reports that social media users are deleting their accounts due to fear of Taliban attacks: ‘Haris, who now lives under Taliban rule in another city, told the BBC he deleted his social media accounts two days before the fall of Kabul because, he said, “the Taliban regime is coming and democracy is gone”.’
- 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”.’
- 26th September: The country says it is to start taxing social media content creators in a revenue raising exercise, according to France24, as more citizens look to online platforms to make a living. The tax authority reportedly said “YouTubers and bloggers” earning over 500,000 pounds (US$32,000) annually would be taxed, in a statement issued at the weekend.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 27th September: Pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah reports that ‘All social media providers have opened rep offices in Turkey’ and quotes Chair of the Parliamentary Digital Media Commission and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Hüseyin Yayman: “The point that our commission puts the most emphasis on is the physical presence of these representations in the coming period. As in Germany, France, England and the US, we believe that it is important for these social networks to be here physically as well as have a legal entity, in the context of developing a correspondence regarding the disputes here.”
- 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.
- 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.”
- 29th September: CNN has disabled its Facebook pages in Australia, after the company refused to disable the comment functionality under its articles. Under a law passed by the country in June 2020, which subsequently failed at appeal earlier this month, publishers are now liable for defamatory comments made on their Facebook pages. In a statement made to The Sydney Morning Herald, CNN said: “We are disappointed that Facebook, once again, has failed to ensure its platform is a place for credible journalism and productive dialogue around current events among its users.”
- 28th September: An Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry has found that ‘Google’s dominance in ad tech supply chain harms businesses and consumers’. The report concludes that enforcement action under Australia’s existing competition laws alone is not sufficient to address the competition issues in the sector, and that the ACCC should be given powers to develop specific rules in response. Full media release here.
- 8th September: Fairfax and News Corp have lost their appeal against last year’s ‘Voller ruling’, numerous sources including the Guardian report. The ruling means that media companies will remain liable for defamatory third-party comments on their social media pages, carrying significant ramifications inclusive of making it more likely that media owners will remove their content from social media altogether.
- 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.
- 2nd October: According to multiple sources including WION, China is set to ban video games that show ‘gay relationships’ and ‘unmanly characters’ as well as content relating to Nazis, barbarians, and Imperial Japan. It’s all part of a wider clampdown on the gaming industry, which in itself is part of a wider clampdown on media in the country, which recently also included the limiting of children’s gaming time to an hour a day.
- 24th September: In its latest crackdown on big tech, China has banned all cryptocurrency activities. A number of sources including the FT report that it is now illegal for exchanges to provide services to Chinese users, and as a result crypto exchanges have heeded the warning and begun to server ties with users in the country.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 13th October: the UK’s Guardian newspaper runs with the headline, ‘Squid Game’s success reopens who pays debate over rising internet traffic’, and cites a Reuters story saying that a local South Korean broadband provider is suing Netflix after the popular streaming show caused a massive traffic surge. Full story here.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 13th October: The FT reports that the EU’s plans to regulate big tech are stalling, because the block can’t agree on how to proceed. Brussels Correspondent, Javier Espinoza, writes: ‘The biggest fight is over which companies should be captured by the regulation. Andreas Schwab, the lead MEP representing the powerful EPP Group in the parliament, has been pushing for the legislation to focus only on the largest platforms. But his rivals want the legislation to be wider in scope and target a number of digital services.’ Full article here.
- 27th September: Google’s appeal against the record fine it received from the European Commission (EC) three years ago begins at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today. In 2018, the company was fined €4.34bn for forcing smartphone users to pre-install its own apps. Sky News’ Technology Reporter, Alexander Martin, here analyses the appeal and says that it could be an important forerunner for looming US regulatory intervention facing Google, which could ultimately lead to the break-up of the company.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 7th October: Ireland has joined an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) international tax agreement, which it says is designed to “address [the] global tax challenges of digitalisation”. Under the new system, multinational companies with revenues in excess of €750million will pay a 15% tax rate, up from 12.5% currently. This is likely to significantly impact big tech players like Facebook, Apple, and Google, who have for many years enjoyed the lower tax status in the country.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.’
- 5th October: Communications regulator Roskomnadzor is continuing to ramp up pressure on Facebook, according to Reuters. The organisation said that the social media network had complied with its demands to delete some banned content, but that Moscow would still seek to fine the social media group 5-10% of its annual turnover in Russia due to repeated legal violations. In the article, Alexander Marrow and Gleb Stolyarov write: ‘Experts cited by the Vedomosti newspaper estimate Facebook’s annual Russian turnover at between 12 and 39 billion roubles ($165-$538 million). Reuters could not independently verify those figures.’
- 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.
- 13th October: A formal evidence meeting of the Joint Committee for the Draft Online Safety Bill will take place in Westminster tomorrow. The session is part of the UK’s ongoing work around the further regulation of media tech companies. Meanwhile, it was announced on Monday that Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower and former product manager at the company, will give evidence to the committee on Monday 25th October. Further details here.
- 30th September: UK journalists have hit back at claims that the media is to blame for the country’s current fuel crisis, after a YouGov poll found that 47% of respondents said the sector was most to blame. In an exclusive interview for FIPP, Ian Carter, Editorial Director for Iliffe Media, said: “There is a deep distrust of authority and unfortunately I fear the press is viewed as being part of the establishment – and abused accordingly.” Full interview here.
- 28th September: Amid the country’s current fuel-crisis, a poll conducted by YouGov has found that almost half of the 3,361 UK adults surveyed think that the media is most to blame for petrol stations running out of fuel. 47% of respondents said that they held the media most accountable for the current crisis, with only 23% citing the government and 22% saying the public.
- 28th September: Press Gazette reports that The Telegraph is to suspend Cartoonist, Bob Moran, after tweets made targeting an NHS Doctor. The Cartoonist is reported to have encouraged people to abuse the Doctor based on comments she had made about mask wearing, saying: “She deserves to be verbally abused in public for the rest of her worthless existence. They all do.” Twitter has subsequently removed the tweet for violating its policies.
- 28th September: The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has warned social media companies that they could face action for “dodgy financial promotions”, according to Reuters. Financial scams have rocketed in recent years, writes Reuters Journalist Huw Jones, and the FCA’s Head of Enforcement, Mark Steward describes such fraud as a “national security threat”.
North & South America
- 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.
- 27th September: A new study published by the Journal of Financial Economics and reported here by Press Gazette shows that when local newspapers close, corporate corruption goes up. In the three years after a local newspaper closed down, the number of violations at corporate facilities increased by 1.1% and penalties increased by 15.2%.
- 21st September: The Washington Post has launched its new advertising network, Zeus Prime. The ad-buying platform connects brands and US publishers in a real-time marketplace, with a self-service interface that allows brands and agencies to quickly purchase and place ads across national, regional, and local publisher sites.
- 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.
- 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.