Leighton Andrews https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/23208/all cached version 04/07/2018 11:56:44 en Why regulators like Ofcom are dropping the ball on ‘Fake News’, dark advertising and extremism https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/leighton-andrews/why-regulators-like-ofcom-are-dropping-ball-on-fake-news-dark-advertising-and-ex <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Ofcom’s position on Facebook and Google is inconsistent, illogical and incoherent.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/32940251834_9e7a62a75a_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549093/32940251834_9e7a62a75a_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="321" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/hragvartanian/32940251834/in/photolist-SbPpfs-64LMMp-66BXuS-QdZKbc-QVaWQG-UuV11W-6LtPp-WSW5kq-UN97Sy-Xi4pBJ-SGHwyu-Q4TDuX-SbGicr-RciGLd-Sjd711-RSGKyK-Y8KNCj-5otR7e-SWh6n9-V6Dg4d-SgNjzY-VwKYuf-W5est2-UbbfpN-92r2YV-X6wax3-5iXnbd-XKaRbF-Vh8W5b-XifB5v-W3fRVR-ib1Xzz-4ez6tk-VwKY4q-Sg7apR-R3J712-RH3h7C-VVYcLb-Vf327S-SeyRQA-T8uUKU-VA6ddQ-RLYHQQ-XhVTKC-4XUMj-cVC1vw-UHa3j1-2axwJq-RwnvGT-6meTqN">Hrag Vartanian/Flickr</a>, Creative Commons License.</em></p><p>During the course of 2017, the large ‘big tech’ internet intermediaries have come under an unprecedented degree of scrutiny worldwide. &nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook">Facebook</a> posts and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/technology/google-will-ban-websites-that-host-fake-news-from-using-its-ad-service.html">Google</a> search listings have come under fire as enablers of so-called ‘fake news’ and propaganda by extremist, terrorist and <a href="https://www.propublica.org/article/facebook-enabled-advertisers-to-reach-jew-haters%20%20%20.">hate groups</a>, with <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/06/technology/facebook-russian-political-ads.html">Facebook’s role in ‘dark advertising’ by hostile foreign powers particularly in the spotlight</a>. <a href="http://www.ibtimes.sg/youtubes-biggest-advertisers-withdraw-advertisement-12115">Google’s YouTube has been hit by a backlash from advertisers</a>. <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-1785_en.htm">Google is currently fighting a heavy European Commission fine for steering customers to its own platform</a>. </p> <p>But the dominance of Facebook and Google on digital and particularly mobile markets continues to grow, outpacing all others. <a href="http://www.endersanalysis.com/content/publication/uk-digital-ad-forecast-2016-2018-strong-uneven-growth">They are the main recipients of the growth of digital and mobile advertising revenue in the UK, at the expense of the rest of the media landscape.</a> </p> <p>Yet the UK’s media regulator, Ofcom, does not currently regulate Facebook and Google, at all, despite admitting they are ‘media companies’ who have a huge impact on the media landscape where Ofcom has<strong> </strong>a legal duty both to regulate and to promote competition, investment and innovation <a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/3">http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/3</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>.</strong></p> <p>Over the course of the last year, its representatives have, with different levels of nuance and emphasis, swayed around the issue like cyclists avoiding a dead squirrel in the road. Last autumn, Ofcom’s chief executive Sharon White told the Royal Television Society that she did not think Ofcom should regulate Facebook or Google (or indeed, Twitter). </p> <p>There are some signs that Ofcom board members are thinking about the impact of the duopoly’s dominance of advertising and the media market. This February, when Ofcom presented its annual plan in Cardiff, I asked Ofcom board member Dame Lynne Brindley what was their view of the duopoly’s dominance of the UK advertising market. She told me that the dominant position held by Google and Facebook in respect of mobile advertising was ‘a big issue’ and that as a regulator, Ofcom would not want to be left with responsibility for regulating only a smaller area of the overall media market. She rightly said that this was a matter for the Government and for Parliament. In March, I asked Ofcom’s chief executive herself at the Oxford Media Convention whether, given the duopoly’s dominance of UK media advertising, there wasn’t a case for intervention, and that surely Ofcom would not want to be left regulating a small portion of the media market. She replied that while she was nervous of regulation, and wouldn’t be pressed into supporting it, “it was a big concern”, and she could see the case if the commercial viability of the sector was threatened.</p> <p>This month Ofcom’s Chief Executive <a href="https://www.rts.org.uk/video/video-sharon-white-conversation-kirsty-wark">told the Royal Television Society in Cambridge</a> that she thought Facebook and Google were media companies. But then she said:</p> <p>“I don’t think regulation is the answer because I think it is really hard to navigate the boundary between regulation and censorship of the internet. I do think though that the companies need to take more responsibility as publishers as well as platforms and I also think to be frank that content providers and advertisers – as you’re beginning to see - need to be increasingly fussy about the environment in which they’re putting their content.”</p> <p>Ofcom is caught in a trap of its own making. It accepts that the Big Tech duopoly’s impact on the UK advertising market is ‘a big issue’. It accepts that they are ‘media companies’. But it does not want to regulate them.</p> <p>The notion that it is hard ‘to navigate the boundary between regulation and censorship of the internet’ shows just how far the big tech companies have captured the discourse around regulation. The internet intermediaries have been able to rely on provisions dating from the early days of US, EU and UK internet laws in the 1990s to shield themselves from certain kinds of regulation. But regulation and censorship are not the same thing. </p> <p>We need to nail the argument that regulation equals censorship. It does not. Ofcom regulates broadcasters but no-one calls that ‘censorship’. Five years ago, former senior Ofcom regulator Robin Foster made <a href="http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/our-research/news-plurality-digital-world">a series of proposals which carefully avoided the danger of intermediary regulation becoming any form of censorship</a>. As he said then “experience of media self-regulation elsewhere suggests that there are advantages in having some form of statutory underpinning”. As the former Ofcom chief executive, Ed Richards, told the House of Lords back in 2014, <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/communications/Ed_Richards_181114/ucCommsEv1181114OfcomRichards.pdf">regulatory interest can ‘nudge’ dominant players to modify behaviours</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>It is actually Facebook and Google and their algorithms that do much of the censoring of the Internet now. Last year a senior Ofcom staff member presented to the European Parliament the case of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/08/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-napalm-girl-photo-vietnam-war">Facebook censoring the famous Vietnam War photo of a young naked girl fleeing a napalm attack</a> as an example of the problems of algorithms acting as curators of content. The biggest censors on the Internet, outside authoritarian regimes, are the Internet Intermediaries. Their actions should not be left without some form of statutory accountability.</p> <p>Of course, not all of the issues raised by the behaviours of the Internet intermediaries fall to be regulated by Ofcom. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/peter-geoghegan-adam-ramsay/new-email-release-shows-how-leave-campaigners-used-vast-loo">Open Democracy’s reports on breaches of UK electoral law in the Brexit referendum</a> &nbsp;raise the role of the Electoral Commission, and the LSE’s Damian Tambini and others have called for <a href="http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/71945/">a new approach to personally targeted advertising on social media platforms</a>. The Information Commissioner commenced an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/04/cambridge-analytics-data-brexit-trump">investigation of possible data breaches during the Brexit referendum</a>. The Advertising Standards Authority has responsibility for personalised advertising. The CMA would have responsibilities in respect of competition for digital advertising. It is not clear that the scope and power of Facebook and Google has been considered by regulators on a cross-regulatory basis, and some of the issues raised by data, algorithms and advertising could cross the boundaries of regulatory knowledge and capacity.</p> <p>The House of Commons Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has re-opened the <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/digital-culture-media-and-sport-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/fake-news-17-19/commons-written-submission-form/">former Culture Committee’s inquiry into fake news, and responses are due by October 31st</a> . These issues should be raised in that committee – and Ofcom’s contradictions and evasions need to be brought into sharp focus.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/stephen-hornsby/why-ofcom-s-humiliation-over-sky-is-dark-day-for-all-regulators">Why Ofcom’s humiliation over Sky is a dark day for all regulators </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/digitaliberties/charles-bradley/why-facebook-s-fake-news-filter-won-t-work">Why Facebook’s fake news filter won’t work</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/mara-einstein/facebook-new-york-times-corporatised-fake-news-advertising">How Facebook and the New York Times corporatised &#039;fake news&#039;</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/simon-albury/ofcom-and-diversity-lies-lawyers-and-whatever-next-part-1">Ofcom and Diversity: lies, lawyers and whatever next? (Part 1)</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk World Forum for Democracy 2017 Leighton Andrews Mon, 25 Sep 2017 12:20:43 +0000 Leighton Andrews 113614 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Leighton Andrews https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/leighton-andrews <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Leighton Andrews </div> </div> </div> <p>Leighton Andrews is Professor of Public Service Leadership and Innovation at Cardiff Business School, a former Welsh Government Minister, and a former head of public affairs at the BBC.</p> Leighton Andrews Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:24:40 +0000 Leighton Andrews 107610 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need European regulation of Facebook and Google https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/leighton-andrews/we-need-european-regulation-of-facebook-and-google <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It's time for the EU to step in and regulate the world's two biggest media outlets.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 15.58.29.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 15.58.29.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="222" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p> <p>Over the weekend, Facebook sent me a link to a video they had made of my activity on their site over the last year. To my mind, that was more proof, if any were needed, that Facebook is a media company, despite all its protestations. </p><p>A study by <a href="http://www.endersanalysis.com/content/publication/uk-digital-ad-forecast-2016-2018-strong-uneven-growth">Enders Analysis</a> last month found that Facebook and Google accounted for 90% of the growth in UK digital advertising in 2016. Earlier studies have shown the duopoly accounting for <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/6c6b74a4-3920-11e6-9a05-82a9b15a8ee7">up to 85%</a> of US digital advertising revenues. Even though Facebook recently found itself under pressure after admitting it had <a href="https://news.fastcompany.com/facebook-admits-it-miscalculated-key-marketer-and-publisher-metrics-4025162">miscalculated its metrics</a> it seems unlikely advertisers are going to give up on these platforms. The ad revenue of old media has declined in direct proportion to the growth of ad revenue for Google and Facebook.</p> <p>As well as their dominance of advertising, the two ‘titans’, as Professor Diane Coyle <a href="https://www.tse-fr.eu/sites/default/files/TSE/documents/ChaireJJL/wp/platforms_dcoyle.pdf">calls them</a> have become the dominant news distributors as well. 44% of US adults get their news via Facebook according to the <a href="http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/">Pew Research Centre</a> having taken over as the top news referrer from Google in 2015 according to the <a href="/fortune.com/2015/08/18/facebook-google">traffic analytics site</a>. </p> <p>Facebook and Google are now the dominant media powers in the world. Up till now, they have resisted being treated as media companies despite the sheer and unparalleled power they exert. They argue that they are widening the base of user-generated content and its distribution, bringing communities together, providing platforms for media companies to reach new audiences, and are thus promoting competition. Well, they are now of such a size that it is impossible to argue that their dominance does not raise worrying issues about media pluralism. There is a wide and growing range of other media organisations, civil society activists and academics who believe that media pluralism is under threat, that there are new issues of power, concentration and dominance not adequately captured in existing competition rules or tests, and that action is needed. The immediate forum for that action, ironically given 2016’s events, is probably the European Union and its Digital Single Market agenda. </p> <p>What is needed is the necessary a strategic alliance between other media companies, civil society organisations and academic specialists to drive an agenda forward to address the powers of internet intermediaries, in terms of content rules, competition issues and their dominance of the advertising markets which as we have seen has had the effect of undermining the newspaper industry in particular. There also needs to be consensus on key planks of any legislative initiatives. My worry is that other media companies may be more concerned with the deals that they can strike with the dominant internet intermediaries: or may be that there is nervousness about a legislative approach which could be counter-productive, such as action taken in Spain to <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2014/12/11/spanish-practices-close-google-news-in-spain/#7fa76609a0a0.">impose copyright</a> on Google News which simply led to Google News ceasing to operate there.</p> <p>Twenty years ago I was the BBC’s head of public affairs. The BBC and other free-to-air broadcasters were concerned about the emerging digital platforms and their potential controls of access to new digital services: along with others, we set in train a campaign on conditional access systems which resulted in the European Parliament, with its new co-decision powers under the Maastricht Treaty, and using the new Maastricht-granted responsibility for the EU to intervene in the field of culture, agreeing amendments to the Television Standards Directive which passed into law despite being opposed by both the UK Government and the EU Commission. These granted all broadcasters access on ‘a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis’ to TV decoders and platforms. Subsequent campaigning delivered amendments to the recitals of the 1997 TV without Frontiers Directive in respect of public and private free-to-air channels’ access to decoders and also recognition of the need to protect public access to major sporting events. At the same time there was a successful campaign to drive forward protections for public service broadcasters in the Treaty of Amsterdam.</p> <p>Now, it is certainly more complicated lobbying in an EU of 28 member states, than one of twelve or fifteen. But action is needed – and sometimes the process of making legislation, messy as it is, is as important as the passage of it. Indeed, the threat of legislation can sometimes change the behaviours of dominant players.</p> <p>So let me make a few suggestions. First, I wholly support the idea that at a national level &nbsp;there needs to be remedial action, such as a levy on internet intermediaries’ revenue (effectively on advertising income) to support plurality in media, as suggested by the <a href="http://www.mediareform.org.uk/blog/support-new-news-providers-via-levy-digital-giants">Media Reform Coalition.</a> This underlines the case for endorsing EU Commission proposals to empower national regulators to impose levies on online platforms targeting their countries. </p> <p>Second, we need some form of confidential independent regulatory scrutiny of proprietary data, including that held by Internet Intermediaries, as suggested by <a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/mediapolicyproject/files/2016/01/LSE-MPP-Policy-Brief-14-Monitoring-Media-Plurality-after-Convergence-FINAL.pdf">Tambini and Labo</a>: this is as important to the interests of advertisers as it is to news outlets themselves: there is industry cooperation to collect TV and radio data, so why not internet data? </p> <p>Third, we need to begin a more serious debate on algorithmic accountability. The impression is sometimes given that this is an area which is too challenging to regulate. In fact, regulation is entirely possible. It simply requires the relevant technical expertise – and political will. </p> <p>My fourth proposal would be legislative action to consider imposing ‘due prominence’ – a concept developed in respect of electronic programme guides on digital television – for material produced by genuine originating news organisations in Facebook’s News Feed and similar systems, which would ensure as a minimum that the branding of the originating news outlet is incorporated within the Feed rather than the situation, as at present, where Facebook re-brands everything to fit its own standard. </p> <p>Finally, there needs to be effective recognition that certain Internet Intermediaries or Online Platforms are media organisations and should at least carry responsibilities in respect of protection of minors and prevention of hate speech. That requires an extension of the scope of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive and a clear definition of specific Internet Intermediaries. It may be that another legislative route would be to revise the e-Commerce Directive, which, as the European Commission noted in its <a href="http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?qid=1466514160026&amp;uri=CELEX:52016DC0288">Communication on Online Platforms</a> ‘was designed at a time when online platforms did not have the characteristics and scale they have today’. </p> <p>Moving forward, there needs to be a coordinated and sustainable lobby at a European level, involving media organisations, advertisers, civic society organisations, and academic specialists interested in media policy to create the space for legislative action </p> <ul><li>- In defence of facts on digital advertising metrics</li><li>- In defence of facts in news reporting and/or attribution </li><li>- In defence of the rule of law (for example German hate speech laws)</li></ul> <p>Assuming Brexit goes ahead, and the UK does want a relationship akin to the EEA, then it’s likely it will have to adhere in practice to EU Media laws. EU legislation may be our last, best hope for effective action. There’s a thing.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/aaron-bastani/why-trade-unions-need-to-get-serious-about-new-media-in-2017">Why trade unions need to get serious about new media in 2017</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk Can Europe make it? uk Leighton Andrews Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:23:56 +0000 Leighton Andrews 107609 at https://www.opendemocracy.net