Gambling Ads Lead to Fines for Twitch, YouTube in Italy

Posted on: December 13, 2023, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2023, 11:12h.

The Italian Authority for the Guarantee of Communications (Agcom, for its Italian acronym) has slapped substantial fines on Google and Twitch, totaling more than €3 million (US$3.23 million). The punishment is for breaches of regulations that prohibit the advertising of gambling in the country.

A cell phone displaying the YouTube app
A cell phone displaying the YouTube app. Italy has fined Google and Twitch for allowing gambling ads despite a nationwide ban. (Image: Getty Images)

Google’s YouTube received the biggest fine and faces a penalty of €2.25 million (US$2.42 million). Twitch, which has tried to shy away from hosting gambling content, will have to pay €900,000 (US$970,470).

This isn’t the first time that Agcom has targeted Google. The communications and advertising watchdog fined it €1.45 million (US$1.47 million) a year and a half ago. However, a court struck down the fine this past September.

20,000 Gambling Promotions

Agcom launched investigations against the two platforms, along with a third against TikTok, in response to numerous complaints it had received. The agency identified more than 80 YouTube and Twitch channels that featured more than 20K videos promoting slot machines, games of chance, sports betting, and scratch-off cards.

Both companies were held accountable as owners of the media that disseminated the videos, published by third parties under specific commercial association contracts. Italy has had a ban on gambling advertising for more than four years.

After Agcom’s intervention, the platforms took down the illicit content. They were also instructed to prevent future similar publications in adherence to the European Union’s Digital Services Regulation (DSA). That guidance forces tech companies to provide better oversight of their platforms to prevent exposure to questionable material by children and teens.

TikTok could have faced a similar response from Agcom. However, upon reviewing the published material, Agcom concluded that the gambling content was independent of any agreement between TikTok and the content providers. Consequently, Agcom closed the case without imposing a fine.

Clamping Down on Social Media

Just like in other countries, things are going to get tougher for social media platforms in Italy. The country has given the green light to new regulations aimed at safeguarding children online. The regulations specifically target major video platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, and are set to be enforced starting January 8 of next year.

The regulations, as outlined by the watchdog in a statement, mandate tech companies adopt more stringent measures against videos that may present a danger to underage users. This specifically targets content spreading religious and ethnic hatred, along with promoting online racial and sexual attacks. The revised legislation also covers various other potentially harmful and illegal content.

Under these regulatory measures, Agcom now possesses the authority to take decisive action against video platforms in the event of violations. Notably, these laws extend to digital platforms based in other EU countries. Before these rules are enforced, the Italian regulator must consult with the national authorities of the respective country.

If the actions taken by that authority fail to satisfy Agcom, it retains the right to proceed with the takedown request directly with the platform. This step underscores Italy’s dedication to enhancing child safety on popular video-sharing platforms, ensuring that tech companies are held accountable for content that may pose harm or involve illegal activities for young users.