Italian Communications Authority Fines Google €450,000

March 6, 2024
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The Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) has imposed a fine of €450,000 on technology giant Google for violations of the "Dignity Decree”, which prohibits all forms of gambling advertising.
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The Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) has imposed a fine of €450,000 on technology giant Google for violations of the "Dignity Decree”, which prohibits all forms of gambling advertising.

The issue surrounds a content creator that goes by the name of Spike and his YouTube channel "Spike Slot 2022". 

A few weeks ago, AGCOM fined Top Ads €1.6m for distributing content violating the Dignity Decree on Spike's channels on various platforms such as Twitch, Telegram and TikTok.

Following reports from the Italian financial police between February and May 2023, the communications watchdog asked Google if the company had taken measures in response to a previous resolution targeting some of Spike's videos. 

However, Google responded by highlighting "the unnecessary need to adopt further measures beyond those already implemented during the proceeding" because the Lazio Regional Administrative Court had temporarily suspended the enforcement of the proceeding.

Google argued that the case in question does not fall within the scope of the Dignity Decree, "both due to the lack of an advertising agreement and payment of any commissions and to Google's qualification as a passive hosting provider". 

Google emphasised that it profits not from the published content but only from the ads from the advertisers, and is absolutely not linked to the channel owner or video author, and does not associate with the videos.

AGCOM stated in the resolution that the advertising ban is “not related to the existence of an economic relationship but is an absolute prohibition of any form of direct and indirect advertising".

Following up on the monitoring activity conducted by AGCOM on three separate days from July to September 2023, the Spike Slot 2022 channel was found to have "hosted numerous videos all with similar content related to the gambling advertising in an alleged violation of the Dignity Decree".

Replying to Google's objections, AGCOM explained that "Article 9 of the decree punishes the client, the owner of the media, and the organiser of the event as well as the activity responsible”. 

Furthermore, it stated that is not relevant that "the owner of the media or site is or may be 'aware' of the unlawfulness of the advertising message”. 

Google is now required to pay the €450,000 fine and has been ordered to remove YouTube videos "uploaded after the notification of this resolution by the content creator Spike, whose content is similar or equivalent to those subject to this proceeding".

In December, AGCOM also fined Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, €5.8m for repeated violations of the advertising ban. It is the largest fine ever issued by AGCOM.

Separately, in May 2024, the Council of State is expected to decide on whether another fine of €750,000 can be enforced against YouTube. The Administrative Court of First Instance had cancelled the fine, stating that hosting providers "merely provide a virtual space where users can upload their content"; however, AGCOM appealed the decision.

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