EU announces changes to rules for online content

For the first time, the European Commission has announced that social media platforms will have to follow the same EU broadcasting rules on hate speech and harmful content as traditional media companies. 

The amendments to the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which were announced by the Commission last week, apply to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media websites. 

In 2018, the EU set out a voluntary code of practice to try and combat fake news, disinformation, and hate speech online. This was implemented to protect democracy and make it harder to spread false or damaging information. 

For example, users can purchase comments, likes, and followers very easily, and internet giants have signed up to the code of conduct to try and address this. 

However, they have been criticized for their lack of effort in enforcing the rules, and for their “patchy, opaque, and self-selecting” approach. 

Lobbying from broadcasters and campaign groups are partly responsible for the amendment, which apply to all platforms that have audiovisual content present, even when it’s not a core part of their business. 

The Commission said in a statement, “Online players will have to ensure, in a similar way to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and that minors are protected from harmful content.”

“Online platforms must take action against flagged content, which incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children’s programmes.”

In addition, the Commission says on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime wil have to include at least 30% European content, and will have to help fund and promote original European shows and films. 

“The guidelines apply, limited yet welcome, new responsibilities to online platforms,” the Association of Commercial Television in Europe said.

EU countries have until September to implement the rules, and will have the final say on which companies will need to change their practices. 

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