Tech companies like Google (Alphabet) and Facebook (Meta) have become giants and have had a free ride evolving in an unregulated context for the past 25 years. While producing easy to use and often free products that charm consumers , they’ve been able to prosper and disrupt entire economies without abiding by a number of laws: those related to copyright, consumer protection, children’s rights, antitrust or privacy. They’ve often avoided paying taxes too. All around the developped world, countries, states and provinces have started reacting to the ‘World Wild Web‘ state of things by enacting regulation of Tech giants.
While they react, with governmental speed, know that we offer digital citizenship workshops and conferences for children, teachers and parents or guardians in Canada to guide them on today’s unregulated digital world. It is necessary, as today’s adults over 30 did not grow up with the digital technology prevalent today, and a majority of children are using technology without adult oversight or protections in place.
Below, we attempt to recap actual or proposed regulation of Big Tech in the following regions :
- France and Australia’s legislation to compensate traditional media for their content
- the European Union’s 2016 GDPR privacy legislation and the 2022 DMA and DSA acts
- Canada’s C-11 and C-18 laws addressing Canadian content and Quebec’s 64 privacy law
- the United States’ various federal proposed but yet unpassed laws S-2333, the ” American Data and Privacy Act”, the “Kids Online Safety Act” and the “American Innovation and Choice Online Act”
- California’s CCPA privacy law and proposed children’s protection law
The new acronym for these web giants in 2021 is MAMAA, for Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Alphabet (formerly Google). Netflix, which was in the top tier, has lost its place. Notice the tendency of these giants to change their names, when they want to evolve from their original product.
The only concern in these efforts to regulate digital players is that publishers of video games and related platforms such as Discord and Roblox are relatively free to break advertising and gambling laws without worry.
In France: The July 24, 2019 Law on Copyright and Neighboring Rights of the Press
France was the first country to transpose the “neighboring right” introduced by a European directive on copyright adopted on March 26: on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, deputies voted, by 81 votes to one, the proposed law giving the press the right to negotiate with platforms such as Google, Facebook or Twitter compensation for the use of excerpts of articles and videos. “It’s a speed record,” says a pleased Pierre Louette, CEO of Les Echos-Le Parisien group and leader of a working group on neighboring rights within the General Information Press Alliance.
Has the French Law of 2019 produced results for the press?
As a result of this law, in November 2021, Google reached an agreement with Agence France-Presse to pay for five years to use its content online. This is the first “neighboring rights” partnership entered into by a news agency.
The agreement “covers the whole EU [European Union], in all AFP’s languages, including in countries that have not transposed the directive,” said Agence France-Presse CEO Fabrice Fries on Wednesday 17 November, describing the agreement, which has been negotiated over the past 18 months, as “pioneering”. AFP produces and distributes multimedia content in six languages to its clients in France and around the world.
On the other hand, the agreement with Google is to be completed “very soon” by “a program dealing with the fight against disinformation”, said the two companies in a joint statement. AFP will offer training in fact-checking.
In his message to employees, Fabrice Fries added that Google would “thus become one of the agency’s very first clients, alongside Facebook”. The American group Meta, owner of the social network, pays more than 80 media outlets worldwide, including AFP, for a content verification program.
But it’s not all plain sailing. After having initially been reluctant to pay French newspapers for the use of their content, Google ended up signing a framework agreement at the beginning of the year, which has since been suspended, with part of the French press for a period of three years. In mid-July, the French Competition Authority imposed a fine of 500 million euros on Google for not having negotiated “in good faith”. Google has appealed and is continuing negotiations with some French media groups.
Facebook also announces agreements on neighboring rights
For its part, Facebook announced in October 2021 several agreements, including a framework agreement with the Alliance for the General Information Press, which provides for two years of remuneration to French daily press publishers for the use of their content. This agreement provides for the participation of these publishers in Facebook News, a service dedicated to news, already launched in the United States and the United Kingdom, and which Facebook was to deploy in France in January 2022.
In Australia, a February 2021 Law on the Compensation of the Press by Big Tech
After months of intense tension, Australia has managed to find common ground with Google and Facebook. From now on, there is an Australian model for managing the issue of neighboring rights.
The Australian parliament adopted on February 25, 2021, the law forcing digital giants to pay the media for the use of their news content.
The text was adopted two days after the conclusion of an agreement with Facebook that would invest at least 1 billion dollars in news content over the next three years. Google had also signed a similar agreement. However, the two web giants initially opposed the law.
The government said the law would ensure that the media “are fairly compensated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.
It was this Australian law that inspired the Canadian government to create Bill C-18.
In Europe: RGPD in 2018, then DMA and DSA in 2022 regulate MAMAAs
The European Union got a head start in the West towards regulating Big Tech, with its GDPR law ( General Data Protection Regulation), passed in April 2016 and implemented since May 2018. This law explains the pop-ups we see on the sites we visit since then, asking us (or not, depending on the region) for our consent to be tracked by the spy files nicely named “cookies”.
The EU went on in 2022 to pass two major laws regulating the web giants, the MAMAA: the DMA (Digital Market Act) and DSA (Digital Services Act). They both aim to regulate the excesses of the web giants beyond the preservation of our privacy by 2023.
The DSA aims to ensure online the existing rights of citizens offline, at the level of the European Union countries.
The DMA aims to promote a truly competitive, fair and innovative space for all businesses in the European Union by tackling the monopolistic actions of the MAMAA.