Facebook, Google, Twitter Told To Revise User Agreements Or Face Fines In Europe

Image courtesy of frankieleon

Operating globally is tricky: You have to know, and follow, the rules not just of the country where you’re based, but of the countries and regions where you serve customers, too. And for a major silicon valley trio, the way they serve customers in the European Union is apparently not up to snuff.

The European Commission has announced it will start levying fines against Twitter, Alphabet (Google), and Facebook if the three platforms do not change their terms of service for European users, Reuters reports today.

Laws regarding hate speech and threatening content in the EU differ from those we have in the U.S., and the social networks are apparently falling short of meeting their obligations across the pond.

The Commission sent letters to all three companies in December saying that their terms of service violate EU consumer protection laws, particularly with regard to the presence of frauds and scams hosted on all the sites. The EU also objected to some of the other terms present, like requiring consumers to seek redress in court in California — rather a long haul, two continents and an ocean away from European users.

Other issues reported in the letters Reuters obtained included not identifying “sponsored” (i.e. advertising) content clearly enough; requring consumers to waive mandatory rights; and “an excessive power for the companies to determing the suitability of content generated by users.”

A European official told Reuters that European consumer protection authorities will, “take action to make sure social media companies comply with EU consumer rules.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Germany are also proposing a new law that would call for sites like Facebook to remove “slanderous or threatening” online postings quickly after they are reported, or face fines of up to €50 million (between $53 and $54 million USD).

What remains to be seen is if the companies will comply with the EU’s demands, and if so, whether those revised terms would be applied on a global basis or solely for European users.

EU authorities demand changes from Facebook, Google, Twitter [Reuters]