Germany has become the second EU country in as many days to whack Facebook with a fine for dodgy governance, after issuing a €2m (£1.7m) penalty to the social media giant for making it hard for consumers to complain about illegal content on its platform.
Under the German law, known as ‘NetzDG’, social media platforms must report the number of complaints they receive about unlawful content. However, the Germans have accused Facebook of making it virtually impossible for users to find out how to complain under the transparency law. By contrast, an option for complaining that a post violated the platform’s community standards was far easier to find.
This, the Germans insist, led to artificially low numbers of complaints being reported. Facebook said it had received 1,048 complaints over illegal content during the second half of 2018.
Yet, Twitter and Google’s YouTube both reported well over 250,000 complaints for the whole year. Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said: “It is quite clear that Facebook’s community standards do not correspond to the standards of the law.” Facebook has already said it plans to appeal against the fine.
Meanwhile, Italy’s data protection watchdog has issued Facebook with a €1m (£900,000) fine – nearly double that of the UK regulator – over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.
The Italian regulator says 57 Italian Facebook users downloaded the data-harvesting app “This is Your Digital Life” – which was used to harvest Facebook user data en masse – with a further 214,077 Italian users also having their personal information processed without their consent.
The company has already been battered by a €10m (£8.9m) fine for breaching the country’s consumer protection laws over the same charges.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. However, evidence indicates that no Italian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica. [The data was only] shared with Cambridge Analytica in relation to US users.”
“We will review the decision and will continue to engage constructively with these concerns.”
Facebook is also facing action in the US and Canada, as well as numerous investigations by the Irish Data Protection Commission.
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