Global Media Tech Regulation Tracker

Welcome to the regulation tracker, a collaboration between WAN-IFRA and FIPP. Updated weekly, this live article provides an international, regional, and country-by-country view of the latest goings-on in big tech and news media. 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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GLOBAL

  • 25th October 2021: As former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, has appeared before US and UK committees, more documents about the company’s internal practices have found their way into the public domain. Dubbed collectively as the ‘Facebook Papers’, the documents cover everything from an Apple threat to remove Facebook and Instagram from its App Store, to Facebook’s own consideration of ditching ‘likes’ due to their impact on young people. Sky News has a full analysis here.
  • 21st October 2021: A study carried out by Twitter has found that its algorithm favours right-leaning politics and right-leaning news outlets. “In six out of seven countries – all but Germany,” researchers write on the Twitter blog, “Tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group. Full post here.
  • 20th October 2021: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined Facebook £50.5m for breaching an order imposed during its investigation into the purchase of Giphy. In a statement on the Gov.uk website, the regulator said: “Facebook is required, as part of the process, to provide the CMA with regular updates outlining its compliance with the IEO. Facebook significantly limited the scope of those updates, despite repeated warnings from the CMA.”
  • 19th October 2021: The Verge reports that ‘Facebook is planning to rebrand the company with a new name’ and that ‘Mark Zuckerberg wants to be known for building the metaverse’. According to the report, CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to unveil the name change at the company’s annual Connect conference on 28th October, although the announcement could potentially come sooner.
  • 19th October 2021: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says that regulation is not a substitute for the moral responsibility that social media companies have in protecting their communities. Speaking at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Live Conference, he said: “The important point to make is that regulation is not a substitute for moral responsibility and for business practices that support the health and well being of your community.”

AFRICA AND MIDDLE-EAST

Cross-Continent

  • 25th October 2021: Multiple outlets including Premium Times Nigeria report that Google has partnered with UNESCO to support 100 journalism institutions in Africa. Speaking at a virtual event, Matt Brittin, Google President for EMEA Business and Operations, said: ‘’There has never been a time when access to good quality journalism has been more important; this programme will seek to establish, define, and implement the local definitions of excellence in journalism. We will work with the 100 different journalism schools targeting to benefit over 4,000 journalists.’’
  • 7th October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

Afghanistan

  • 27th September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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”.’

Egypt

  • 26th September 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Ethiopia

  • 15th July 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Ghana

  • 28th July 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

Israel

  • 19th October 2021: The Times of Israel reports that Justice Minister, Gideon Sa’ar, has “set up a special committee headed by the Justice Ministry’s director-general, Eran Davidi, that will be tasked with making regulatory recommendations vis-a-vis social media networks, as well as emerging technologies in Israel and abroad. Full story here.
  • 14th July 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: ‘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.

Kenya

  • 13th September 2021: 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 2021:  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.”

Mauritius

  • 20th April 2021: 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.

Nigeria

  • 13th September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

South Africa

  • 20th October 2021: The Electoral Commission and Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) have issued a joint statement with leading social media platforms declaring their intent to fight the spread of disinformation, in the run up to, during and beyond the November 1 2021 municipal elections. Commission Vice-Chairperson Janet Love said: “The dissemination of disinformation has huge potential to undermine the fairness and credibility of elections.” Nomonde Gongxeka-Seopa, Head of Public Policy, Southern Africa at Facebook added: “Elections continue to be a priority for us at Facebook, over the years we’ve dedicated unprecedented resources with protecting election integrity at heart, including our ongoing work in reducing misinformation, supporting civic engagement and increasing transparency in political advertising. We’re looking forward to receiving the final framework from the IEC.” You can read the full statement here.
  • 22nd September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

South Sudan

  • 29th August 2021: 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.

Sudan

  • 26th October: 2021 Netblocks reports that all internet service was cut in Sudan yesterday, hours after the detention of the country’s transitional leadership and reports of a military coup. After returning briefly this morning, mobile internet services are reportedly down again, in what Netblocks is tracking as an ongoing situation.

Turkey

  • 27th September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

ASIA-PACIFIC

Cross-Region

  • 18th August 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

Australia

  • 25th October 2021: The government has announced new draft privacy legislation that would require online platforms including social media companies to seek parental consent for users under the age of 16. In a statement, David Coleman MP, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, said that the updated legislation would “provide families with powerful protections, and require fundamental changes to the way that social media platforms operate in Australia.”
  • 29th September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

China

  • 20th October 2021: Microsoft has announced that it is shutting down LinkedIn in China. In a statement published on the company blog, Head of Engineering Mohak Shroff said: “We’re facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China. we’ve made the decision to sunset the current localized version of LinkedIn, which is how people in China access LinkedIn’s global social media platform, later this year.” The company plans to replace the platform in China with InJobs, a service that contains no social feed or capacity for sharing.
  • 2nd October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

India

  • 6th July 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Myanmar

South Korea

  • 13th October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

Taiwan

  • 10th May 2021: 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.”

EUROPE

EU

  • 17th October 2021: Facebook has announced a plan to create 10,000 new high-skilled jobs within the European Union (EU) over the next five years. The strategy centres around the company’s ambitions to help build out the metaverse, and writing on the Facebook blog, Nick Clegg, VP Global Affairs, and Javier Olivan, VP Central Products, said: “This investment is a vote of confidence in the strength of the European tech industry and the potential of European tech talent.”
  • 13th October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

France

  • 21st October 2021: Facebook has agreed a multiyear deal with French publishers to pay them for content appearing on the platform. Announcing the move on its Journalism Project site, the company says that it has entered into a partnership with L’Alliance de la presse de l’information (APIG), which “means that people on Facebook will be able to continue uploading and sharing news stories freely amongst their communities, whilst also ensuring that the copyright of our publishing partners is protected.”
  • 1st September 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.”

Germany

  • 27th July 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Ireland

  • 7th October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Luxembourg

  • 30th July 2021: 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.”

Netherlands

  • 2nd July 2021: 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.’

Russia

  • 5th October 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.

Spain

  • 3 November 2021: Google News will once again be available in Spain in early 2022 after the country’s government introduced a Royal Decree published on 3 November 2021 that changes its online copyright laws.

UK

  • 25th October 2021: Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, has today given evidence at an Online Safety Bill committee hearing. Haugen told MPs that Facebook was “unquestionably making hate worse”, said Instagram was “more dangerous than other forms of social media”, and cautioned that “UK English is sufficiently different that I would be unsurprised if the safety systems that they developed primarily for American English were actually under-enforcing in the UK.” Full report via the BBC here.
  • 25th October 2021: The BBC has appointed Rachel Schraer to the position of Health Disinformation Reporter, in the first role of its kind at the organisation. Over the past 18 months, Schraer has focussed on identifying and debunking misleading information about Covid-19, and will continue in this capacity as well as investigating misinformation about wider health topics on a global basis.
  • 20th October 2021: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has fined Facebook £50.5m for breaching an order imposed during its investigation into the purchase of Giphy. In a statement on the Gov.uk website, the regulator said: “Facebook is required, as part of the process, to provide the CMA with regular updates outlining its compliance with the IEO. Facebook significantly limited the scope of those updates, despite repeated warnings from the CMA.”
  • 19th October 2021: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced its intention to launch a market study into music streaming. Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “Over the past decade, the music industry has evolved almost beyond recognition, with streaming now accounting for more than 80% of all music listened to in this country. A market study will help us to understand these radical changes and build a view as to whether competition in this sector is working well or whether further action needs to be taken.”
  • 19th October 2021: Sky News Technology Reporter, Alexander Martin, has published a piece titled, ‘What is the Online Safety Bill and why are some people worried about it?’ He says that while some have welcomed the bill, others have expressed concerns, and cites MP David Davis as saying that it was “a good example of the best of intentions leading to the worst of outcomes” and warned that it was “a censor’s charter” as a result. “The chilling effect on free speech will be terrible,” Mr Davis added.

AMERICAS

Cuba

  • 1st August 2021: 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 2021: NetBlocks reports that social media and messaging platforms have been restricted, and internet services have been interrupted, amid widening anti-government protests.

USA

  • 25th October 2021: A number of outlets including Insider report that Google ‘boasted about “slowing down” privacy regulation in Europe, and knew its deal with Facebook was “suboptimal” for publishers.’ The information has been drawn from the unredacted copy of an antitrust lawsuit filed in the US and led by Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General.
  • 21st October 2021: Former President Donald Trump has announced plans to launch a social media network called ‘Truth Social’, as reported by a number of sources including Axios. If it goes ahead, the company would be formed via a company called Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG) and special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), led by financier Patrick Orlando.
  • 20th October 2021: The US House Representatives committee investigating the Capitol riot has voted to hold former Trump aide, Steve Bannon, in contempt. Bannon, who has so far refused to appear before the committee, is believed to have information showing that both he and the former President had “substantial advance knowledge of the plans” (Congresswoman Liz Cheney) for the January 6th protests. Full story on the BBC here.
  • 20th October 2021: A virtual panel of legal and policy experts has met to discuss strategies to regulate social media and protect private data. The Berkman Klein Center and Institute for Rebooting Social Media-hosted event featured Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily, Nabiha Syed, the president of the tech-focused newsroom the Markup, former US Deputy Chief Technology Officer Nicole Wong and Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts, and was moderated by Harvard Law School professor Jonathan L. Zittrain. The Harvard Crimson has the full story here.
  • 27th September 2021: 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%.

Canada

  • 22nd June 2021: 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 2021: 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 2021: 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.
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