Italy's communication authority (AGCOM) has fined technology giant Google €750,000 for allegedly breaching a ban on gambling advertising on its YouTube video platform.
The record-breaking fine is the highest ever imposed after the Dignity Decree came into force in 2019, all but banning gambling advertising in Italy.
It is also the first measure taken by AGCOM against a video sharing platform for allowing the distribution of banned advertisements relating to gambling.
AGCOM also fined Top Ads, the creator of the advertisement content, €700,000.
“YouTube was found liable for not taking action to remove the illegal content that was massively distributed on its platform by a third party,” AGCOM said.
The communications watchdog pledged to remove 625 "illegal videos" still on YouTube and spikeslot.com within seven days of the announcement of the fines on August 2, with the regulator referring to recent rulings by the Court of Justice of the European Union.
AGCOM board member Elisa Giomi said it is very difficult to intervene against online platforms such as YouTube, as they try to distance themselves from “editorial responsibility”.
“The Dignity Decree, however, makes it possible to consider directly responsible ‘the owners of the medium or site of diffusion or destination,’ such as Google with respect to YouTube. In this way it allows us to counteract gambling addiction by any means possible. And we are delighted to have made our contribution,” she said.
At the time of writing, Google has not released any comments. However, a legal challenge by Google against the fine is expected in the following weeks.
It is not the first clash between the Italian communication watchdog and Google. In November 2021, a court in Rome cleared Google of violating Italy’s ban on gambling advertising.
In its notice, AGCOM stated Google had been fined for not verifying ad content after it received pre-payments for ad campaigns featuring clear links to gambling-related products, such as sublime-casino.com — a text link redirecting traffic to a holding page promoting unlicensed gambling operators.
During its appeal, lawyers for Google argued that the "Google Ads" service is provided in the EU by Google Ireland which, as a "hosting provider", cannot be held responsible for the content.
The court finally ruled: “The ads are created in full autonomy by the advertiser, who establishes the content through an automated process. This one starts with the user's registration, the creation of a specific 'account' and the simultaneous acceptance of the 'Advertising Rules' containing clear information on prohibited or restricted activities.”