Social media platforms and big tech are having a run-in with regulatory agencies globally. No matter how user-friendly these platforms might be, but when it comes to complying with local laws, all platforms struggle globally.
A couple of years ago, TikTok, which is globally popular, was banned by India as there were doubts over the storage of user data and the Chinese ownership of the app.
Experts say that big tech is always ahead of the curve and the regulatory agencies are always doing a catch-up job.
That said, experts believe that it is highly important for platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google among others to follow the law of the land.
“The platforms are designed for global markets. When Facebook was being ideated no one thought that privacy and user data would be such a big concern. Similarly, with Twitter, no one thought it could actually influence the government so much or both these platforms could also cause riots,” said a cyber expert.
However, now with data being a monetizable commodity and digital commerce being the primary objective of social media companies, they’re governed by different sets of rules including IT, commerce, consumer, investor protection and several others.
Today, social media platforms are not only being fined by the competition regulators for misusing their dominant position, but they also come under the ambit of the Reserve Bank Of India, the Consumer Affairs Ministry, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the IT ministry. The state-level and central law enforcement agencies have their own guidelines in terms of law-and-order situations.
In India too, the government has issued information and technology rules for social media companies and digital entities but some such as Twitter are yet to comply. These rules are around user safety, ensuring law and order, protection of financial and health data and setting up a grievance redressal system.
Run-ins with agencies globally
Last month, Twitter agreed to pay a penalty of $150 million to the US government for allegedly breaking privacy. In a long battle of more than a decade, where the complaint was lodged against the social media company in the year 2010, for using user’s personal data to serve them personalised ads without their consent.
According to a blog published by Federal Trade Commission (US), from May 2013 through September 2019, Twitter prompted users to provide their telephone numbers or email addresses for security purposes, such as to enable multi-factor authentication. (Multi-factor authentication is an additional layer of security that requires separate forms of identification to access an account – for example, a password and a code sent to a user’s verified email address or mobile). Twitter also told people it would use their personal data to help with account recovery (for example, if users forgot their passwords) or to re-enable full access if Twitter detected suspicious activity on a person’s account. The FTC says Twitter induced people to provide their phone numbers and email addresses by claiming that the company’s purpose was, for example, to “Safeguard your account.” Twitter further encouraged users to provide that information because “An extra layer of security helps make sure that you, and only you, can access your Twitter account.”
Last week, Meta agreed to pay a penalty of $115,000 for an ad algorithm for the housing ads with the algorithm being based on gender, race, colour, etc. In a shocking statement, Meta earlier Facebook said that they will be changing their algorithm and ad delivery system. The statement read - “We are announcing an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads in the United States.”
“We will be introducing a new method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad. It will focus on a few key demographics: age, gender and estimated race or ethnicity.”
“HUD’s concerns focused on housing ads, but we also plan to use this method for employment and credit ads. These changes build on the significant progress we’ve already made to advance non-discrimination and fairness in our ads system,” they added as a takeaway from this matter.
As mentioned already, India has not put any fines or penalties with regard to policies as the country is forming a structure, however, the government has made appeals to the companies to take down or block some of the users.