Google, Twitch Fined In Millions Over Gambling Ads In Italy

December 14, 2023
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Italian advertising regulator Agcom has imposed fines totalling more than €3m ($3.3m) against Google and Twitch, the Amazon-owned live streaming platform.
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Italian advertising regulator Agcom has imposed fines totalling more than €3m ($3.3m) against Google and Twitch, the Amazon-owned live streaming platform.

Google has been fined €2.25m and Twitch €900,000 for breaching Italy’s gambling advertising ban.

In both cases, the offence is the same. Following “numerous reports” received by the authority, the communication watchdog alleged a violation of the Dignity Decree of 2018 that bans any form of gambling promotion. 

Investigators “found the presence of over 80 YouTube and Twitch channels containing more than 20,000 videos advertising slot machines, gambling, sports betting and scratch cards”. 

In both proceedings, the companies were held responsible as owners of websites disseminating videos created by third parties with whom they had specific commercial partnership agreements. 

The agreement between content creators and platforms vests additional responsibility for content in media companies, the watchdog said.

Agcom added that the offending content has been removed, but it also “ordered the platforms to remove and prevent the upload by those subjects of similar violating videos”, as mandated by the Regulation for Digital Services (DSA).

A case against TikTok was closed and the eventual fine set at a lower value after Agcom “detected the absence of a contractual relationship with the 30 content creators who uploaded the contested content”. 

TikTok, therefore, had no knowledge of the offence committed by creators on its platform, and the company also removed “all the videos identified in the complaint, also inhibiting access to the respective accounts by Italian users”.

Agcom commissioner Massimiliano Capitanio said: “Platforms must be more responsible for the content that is published. I am well aware of the daily work done to make the internet a beautiful and safe environment, but perhaps a little more effort is needed.” 

Agcom's decisions not only impose sanctions on the platforms for violating the Dignity Decree but also send a signal to other media firms.

The enforcement decisions “represent an attribution of responsibility to the platforms when commercial partnerships exist. The YouTube Partner Program [YPP] and the partnership proposed by Twitch are clear examples,” Capitanio said.

In the last few years, similar cases have been brought against Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, and another against Google, following prohibited advertisements on YouTube. 

In Meta's case, a €750,000 fine imposed by Agcom was confirmed by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court. 

Google also received a €750,000 fine for violating the Dignity Decree due to the publication of various gambling advertisements on the YouTube video platform, but the fine was later annulled by the Administrative Court.

The ruling exempted Google from responsibility for ads as a “hosting provider” when they “are limited to providing a virtual space where users can upload their own content”, and provided they “have not effectively participated in the commission of the offence and have taken all precautions to promptly remove the videos”.

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