EU To Facebook: You Have Until January To Comply With Regulations Or Face Sanctions

Anders Hagstrom | Justice Reporter

The European Union told Facebook to expect sanctions if the company doesn’t revise its “misleading” terms and conditions (TACs) by the end of 2018.

The EU has been in talks with Facebook for around two years about adjusting its TACs to give European residents more information about what Facebook is doing with their data, The Guardian reported Thursday. The social media giant launched an update in May that it says brought it into compliance with “the vast majority” of changes the EU called for, but regulators still weren’t satisfied.

“I will not hide the fact that I am becoming rather impatient because we have been in dialogue with Facebook almost two years,” EU Commissioner Vera Jourova told reporters.

“Progress is not enough for me, I want to see results.”

“While Facebook assured me” it would “finally adapt any remaining misleading terms of services by December, this has been ongoing for too long,” she said, according to AFP.

Jourova is specifically frustrated that Facebook still “tells consumers that their data and content is used only to improve their overall ‘experience’ and does not mention that the company uses these data for commercial purposes.”

It’s not clear what sort of sanctions Facebook will face if the EU doesn’t find it to be in compliance by the end of 2018. Violations of consumer protection standards have no clear financial penalty in the EU, reported The Guardian.

“I expect Facebook to be honest with those that go and try to understand” its TACs, Jourova said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The EU approved new copyright laws for web companies Sept. 12 that could bring sweeping changes to how companies like Facebook treat their users’ content. The main source of controversy is that the bill requires companies like Google and Facebook to both pay a “link tax” to media companies when they share one of their pages, and implement content filters to prevent users from posting copyrighted material, which could include memes. (RELATED: Facebook Says It Has Identified Political Influence Campaign Growing Left-Wing ‘Resistance’)

The main issue arises from liability. Requiring tech companies to filter for copyrighted content means those companies — not their users — are held liable for potential infringement. Traditionally, if someone uploaded a copyrighted video to YouTube, that user would be held personally responsible. If that responsibility shifts, users face the question of how stringently tech companies will define copyrighted content.

Every day, millions of internet users post memes in the form of screenshots, clips and GIFs taken from copyrighted media sources like TV shows. These instances typically fall under fair use and aren’t an issue, but if tech companies are going to be the ones facing consequences when their users cross the line, critics fear companies will over-filter to minimize the chance of a lawsuit.

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