Welcome to the FIPP regulation tracker! Updated weekly, this live article provides an international, regional, and country-by-country view of the latest goings-on in BIG tech. From Facebook and Twitter on Capitol Hill, to Google’s battle with publishers in Australia, and beyond to the latest legislative updates in individual markets, we’ll be keeping track of the latest development in media tech as they occur.
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- 17th May: Cryptocurrency values have been fluctuating dynamically in recent days in weeks, thanks in part due to the equally erratic behaviour of SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk. Today, Yahoo! Finance has published an article titled ‘Why Elon Musk’s bitcoin and dogecoin tweets don’t break rules’, which explains that: “Laws govern things like when insiders can buy and sell shares in their own company, how they disclose information to the market, and what must be disclosed. In the world of cryptocurrencies, no such rules exist. While many cryptocurrency exchanges are now regulated, cryptocurrencies themselves are not. Part of the appeal for many investors is that most cryptos are decentralised — no one entity controls them. As a result, no one has authority to pull up Musk for sending bitcoin higher or lower with a tweet.”
- 14th May: At a recent virtual event for the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (Columbia SIPA), six competition ministers came together to discuss their plans for regulating Big Tech. They included:
—Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission
—Isabelle de Silva, President of the French Competition Authority
–Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the UK Competition and Markets Authority
–Tembinkosi Bonakele, Commissioner of the South African Competition Commission
–Andreas Mundt, President of the Germany Bundeskartellamt
–Thomas Owen Ripley, Director General, Broadcasting, Copyright & Creative Marketplace, Canadian Heritage
Much of the discussion centred around Google and Facebook, and you can read the Columbia Journalism Review’s write-up of the event, and access the full webinar here.
- 14th May: S&P Market Intelligence has published a new article titled ‘Tech giants’ growth overshadowed by regulatory risks, ad challenges’ in which tech market analysts “warn the threat of looming regulation and Apple’s iOS14 update are two headwinds that major tech players are unlikely to overcome anytime soon.”
- 10th May: A new study from global commerce discovery platform Empathy.co has found that 22% of shoppers regularly use guest accounts to purchase online goods to avoid handing over personal data. The report also showed that 40% of respondents agreed that they don’t like being asked for unnecessary or sensitive data, while 28% said they would take back information from brands they don’t like or trust if they could.
- 5th May: An international poll commissioned by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation and inclusive of 50,000 people in 53 countries has found that almost half of respondents (48%) feel that the power of Big Tech companies is a threat to democracy in their country, with people in the US having the largest concern (62%).
Africa & Middle East
- 7th May: Facebook is expanding its Express Wi-fi platform across 12 African countries in partnership with satellite operating company, Eutelsat. The companies will provide broadband services via satellite across several Sub-Saharan regions spanning countries including: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
- 16th May: Netblocks, a watchdog organization that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the Internet, reports that Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are now back up and running fully, having been blocked in parts of the country on Monday. The incident comes amid renewed international condemnation over the Tigray conflict and postponement of elections.
- 25th April: The BBC updates on Twitter’s decision earlier this month to select Ghana as the location of its African HQ. The selection of Ghana shocked many on the continent, including Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho, CEO of Lagos-based digital marketing firm FutureSoft, who said of the Nigerian media tech industry: “Across sectors we’ve seen regulators step in to regulate after technology companies have disrupted the market. While regulation is good, what it sometimes means is that you’re creating barriers to entry by creating high licence fees for example. Regulators need to think about the bigger picture and the long-term impact of these regulations and policies.”
- 14th May: A number of outlets including Sky News report that Twitter placed a “media manipulation” message on a tweet sent by a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, before it was deleted. The post is emblematic of a reported sea of fake news being pushed by social media users in both Israel and Palestine, as the conflict between the two factions continues.
- 27th April: ‘Social Media Giants Deleted 159 Anti-vaxxer Posts at Israeli Cyber Unit’s Request’, reports Haaretz. Beginning in December 2020, the Israeli Health Ministry and State Prosecutor’s Office Cyber Unit began working to identify and request the takedown of harmful antivax posts on social media. Since that time, Facebook and other social media companies have accommodated 87% of the Unit’s requests, which are only made in relation to posts constituting a criminal act.
- 20th April: The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) has released a consultation document about the government’s plans to give it more power to censor social media, reports AllAfrica. The proposal is a highly controversial one, as it would give authorities in the country the power to access citizens data, identify and remove specific social media posts, and track down the users who posted them.
- 14th May: Apple’s newly appointed MD for Nigeria and the company’s first ever senior top-executive appointment on the continent at large, Teju Ajani, has spoken at an Africa Soft Power Project event. Speaking about tech growth across Africa, she said: “As long as we are solving relevant problems with relevant solutions, adoption will come. And when adoption comes, investment will come, because naturally there is always an interest in leveraging those user opportunities.”
- 26th April: Turkey is to introduce ‘a comprehensive regulatory framework’ around cryptocurrency over the coming weeks. Reporting on a televised interview that Central Bank Governor, Sahap Kavcioglu gave to Turkish broadcasters on Friday, the Financial Times and a number of other outlets report that despite increased regulatory measures being introduced, the country has “no intention” of prohibiting cryptocurrency outright.
- 28th April: A new report from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has found that the dominance of Apple and Google’s app stores is impacting competition and consumers, and says that measures are needed to address the situation. “Apple and Google don’t only run the app marketplaces, they also compete within them with their own apps. They have the ability and incentive to promote their own apps over others, and they control the terms that their competitors must comply with to gain access to their stores,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said.
- 11th May: A new study from the The Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has found that Chinese actors are using social media networks to influence foreign public opinion. Analysis shows that People’s Republic of China (PRC) diplomats and state media outlets are highly active on Twitter and Facebook. Only 14% of PRC diplomat accounts on Twitter are labelled by the platform, and more than 10% of diplomat retweets are from accounts that have since been suspended for violating Twitter’s rules prohibiting platform manipulation. More here.
- 8th May: China is to begin restricting mobile app news notifications in a new internet clampdown, reports Reuters. It represents the latest attempt by the country to tighten regulations and rein in the growing influence of internet companies over its citizens’ daily lives. Xie Dengke, a spokesperson for the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), said at a State Council press conference that the restrictions come as part of what it deems to be a “people’s war” aimed at bringing order to the online environment.
- 29th April: An exclusive Reuters report claims that China is lining up a multi-billion dollar penalty for WeChat owner Tencent, as part of what it refers to as the Government’s “sweeping antitrust clampdown on the country’s internet giants”. Earlier this month, the country imposed a record fine on fellow tech giant Alibaba, after regulators found that the company had restricted merchants from doing business or running promotions on rival platforms.
- 29th April: The South China Morning Post says that the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology has started an inquiry into the involvement of datacentre firms in cryptocurrency mining, determining to find out the amount of power that the practice consumes. At the time of writing, neither the Bureau nor the country’s leading telco companies had responded to the newspaper’s request for comment on the probe.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 30th April: The EU today states that Apple’s App Store has broken competition rules, after a complaint from Spotify: “Our preliminary finding is that Apple exercises considerable market power in the distribution of music streaming apps to owners of Apple devices. On that market, Apple has a monopoly,” said Margrethe Vestager, Head of Competition Policy in the EU.
- 28th April: The European Parliament has voted through a new law to address ‘the dissemination of terrorist content online’. It says that terrorist content must be removed within one hour, but ‘content uploaded for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes, or used for awareness-raising purposes, will not be considered terrorist content’. Some have criticised the move, arguing that over-zealous algorithmic filters could inadvertently hinder free speech.
- 28th April: The European External Action Service (EEAS), which is the diplomatic service and combined foreign and defence ministry of the European Union (EU), has published a special report providing a ‘Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation Around the COVID-19 Pandemic’. In it, they found that: “Russia and China, in particular, continue to intensively promote their own state-produced vaccines around the world… combined with disinformation and manipulation efforts to undermine trust in Western-made vaccines, EU institutions and Western/European vaccination strategies. Both Russia and China are using state-controlled media, networks of proxy media outlets and social media, including official diplomatic social media accounts, to achieve these goals.”
- 17th May: Axel Springer and Facebook have signed a letter of intent to engage in joint global cooperation. Content produced by the publisher will be distributed via various Facebook offerings, including ‘Facebook News’. As part of the deal, the media brands involved will also ramp up the sharing of video content on the network. The agreement explicitly excludes the future ancillary copyright for press publishers. The initial focus will be on Germany and the US, expanding out into wider territories going forward.
- 5th May: Publishers attending a conference hosted by NewsBrands Ireland, the representative body for print and online national newspapers in the country, have been urged to develop a common digital advertising platform to compete more effectively with Google and Facebook, reports The Irish Times.The publication also reports that discussions between Irish news publishers and Google about potential payment for content on Google News Showcase are at an “early stage”, according to NewsBrands Ireland Chairman, Colm O’Reilly.
- 21st April: The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) today launched a public consultation on proposed changes to the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) zone for the Dublin area. Diarmuid O Conghaile, Aviation Regulator/CEO Designate of the Irish Authority said, “Our job is to facilitate the use of drones, which are quickly emerging as a transformative technology.” The development and regulation of this aspect of tech is important in media for two reasons: at macro level, drones are obviously increasingly connected to people’s phones, which brings wider data/privacy concerns into play, and we also looked recently at an impressive drone QR code display in the Shanghai sky, which exemplifies the increasing use of such technology in advertising and events.
- 17th May: The Moscow Times reports that Roskomnadzor, the country’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, has stepped back from the idea of blocking Twitter, and that the social network has met with 91% of its requests to delete content. However, the media regulator will continue to slow page loading speeds for the social media platform’s mobile app within its borders.
- 9th May: Bitcoin.com says that The Central Bank of the Russian Federation (CBR) has examined three platforms offering crypto-related services, according to the Bank’s 2020 annual report. The projects were tested in its regulatory sandbox in the course of last year.
- 29th April: Russia has fined Apple RU906m (US $12m), according to numerous sources including Macworld UK. The country’s competition body found that the company had abused its position of distribution dominance in favouring its own apps in the App Store.
- 12th May: In addition to a new Online Safety Bill, the UK now looks almost certain to bring in new legislation that will result in a total ban on advertising HFSS foods (those high in fat, salt, and sugar) online, and before 9pm on television. Responding to the impending industry changes, Jon Mew, CEO of the country’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) said: “At IAB UK, we strongly disagree with the ban and the Government’s rationale for it. We recognise that childhood obesity is a significant challenge that must be addressed, and our view remains that an online ad ban is not the solution to this complex problem.”
- 12th May: The Queen’s Speech did prove to be a big day in UK regulatory affairs, as the Government introduced its ‘landmark’ Draft Online Safety Bill. In a statement published alongside the Bill, UK Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Today the UK shows global leadership with our groundbreaking laws to usher in a new age of accountability for tech and bring fairness and accountability to the online world. We will protect children on the internet, crack down on racist abuse on social media and through new measures to safeguard our liberties, create a truly democratic digital age.”
- 11th May: Preliminary reports are coming through that in today’s Queen’s Speech mentioned in the below entry, a new law making voter ID compulsory in the country is likely to be introduced. If true, it would mean that UK voters would need to take a photo ID along to polling booths, and the move has been widely criticised by human rights organisations.
- 7th May: In a joint letter to the Home Secretary and Digital Secretary, 17 organisations have urged the UK Government to include online scams in their upcoming safety bill, and make online platforms legally responsible for protecting users from fake and fraudulent content on their sites. The proposed Online Safety Bill could be announced in next week’s Queen’s Speech next Tuesday 11th May.
- 27th April: The UK’s Digital Markets Unit (DMU) has outlined its approach on regulatory reform, reports TechCrunch. The new pro-competition regulator was initially set-up last November, and will work closely with other UK industry bodies including Ofcom, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the data protection watchdog (the ICO) and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), to tackle concerns about the market power of media tech giants like Facebook and Google and advance digital legislation.
North & South America
- 10th May: This week, the News Media Alliance will host virtual meetings between newspaper executives and their members of Congress to advocate for the passage of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), also known as the ‘Safe Harbor bill.’ Alliance President & CEO, David Chavern, said: As we have seen in Australia and Europe, the world is moving toward new compensation systems for publishers. A healthy democracy needs quality journalism now more than ever, and we must ensure that the digital ecosystem returns value back to the people who create that journalism.”
- 5th May: The Facebook Oversight Board, an independent body set-up in October 2020 to rule on content moderation decisions made by the platform, has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7 to suspend then-President Trump from Facebook and Instagram. However, the board also found that Facebook violated its own rules by imposing a suspension that was ‘indefinite.’ Former UK Deputy Prime Minister and now Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications for Facebook, Nick Clegg, spoke to the FT just hours after the ruling, and also took the opportunity to comment on Apple’s decision to make third-party app-tracking opt-in.
- 4th May: The Apple vs Epic trial got underway in California today, with the Fortnite developer asserting that the tech company should not be allowed to go on requiring the use of its own payments technology (of which Apple takes a 30% cut) for in-App purchases. As reported by CNN, the trial ‘could fuel a fierce courtroom battle over app store policies, which are increasingly under scrutiny by regulators in Europe, lawmakers in the United States and many others.’
- 27th April: Facebook, Twitter, and this time YouTube rather than Google were called to the Capitol again, on this occasion to discuss the addictive nature of their algorithms. US State Senator, Chris Coons, said that greater controls needed to be imposed on media tech companies, “Whether voluntary, regulatory, or legislative”.
- 20th April: The Daily Mail is suing Google for its monopoly over the digital ad-space, saying that the company “punished” publishers who “do not submit to its practices.” The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court by the UK Publisher. It’s the latest anti-competition lawsuit to be made against Google after the Department of Justice, along with eleven state Attorneys General, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against the company for ‘unlawfully maintaining monopolies through anticompetitive and exclusionary practices in the search and search advertising markets’ in October 2020.
- 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.