It was a relatively quiet week in digital policy last week. The main highlights were: lawmakers kickstarting negotiations on platform workers; online companies gearing up for the EU’s new Digital Services Act; investigations around market dominance, and more tech lay-offs. Plus, a ransomware attack during the weekend, the extent of which is still unknown. Let’s get started.
Stephanie and the Digital Watch team
|Digital policy round-up (30 January–6 February)|
// CYBERCRIME //
Italy: Global cyber attack unlikely to have come from state entity
The Italian government has dispelled suspicions that a state or state-like entity was behind a global ransomware hacking attack that targeted thousands of computer servers in France, Italy, and other countries.
The attack is more likely to be the responsibility of cybercriminals whose main aim is to hold targets ransom for monetary gain.
Thousands of computer servers have been targeted by the ransomware hacking attack targeting VMware ESXi servers, the French and Italian cyber incident response teams announced.
// GIG WORK //
EU lawmakers will start negotiations on new law to protect platform workers
The European Parliament has agreed to start negotiations on new measures to improve conditions for workers on digital platforms. The decision was approved in plenary, with 376 votes in favour and 212 against. It is expected that the draft rules will be hotly debated.
The new draft rules are expected to regulate how to determine the employment status of platform workers. They will also specify how AI management can be used to monitor and evaluate workers.
// JOBS //
Layoffs continue: Dell, PayPal, and Tinder employees next
Dell Technologies will lay off 6,650 employees, or 5% of its workforce, the company has just announced. The company is reportedly ‘experiencing market conditions that continue to erode with an uncertain future’.
About 2,000 PayPal employees will also lose their jobs in the coming weeks, the company disclosed. That’s 7% of PayPal’s workforce.
Online dating company Tinder is also laying off employees: 200 jobs with mother company Match Group will be lost, equivalent to 8% of its workforce.
// DSA //
EU tells Twitter: ‘The next few months will be crucial’
EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said the next few months would be crucial for Twitter to get in line with the requirements of the new EU Digital Services Act (DSA), after a video call with Twitter’s CEO Elon Musk.
‘I take note of the path that Twitter is committed to take in Europe to comply with DSA rules,’ Breton tweeted after his ‘constructive exchange’ with Musk.
Implementing the DSA: The first deadline is looming: Online platforms (and search engines) have until 17 February 2023 to report their average number of active recipients (the so-called AMARs) under the new rules. This number will determine the companies’ obligations under the DSA.
// CONTENT POLICY //
Russian court fines Twitch over failure to remove fakes
A Russian court fined US video streaming service Twitch Interactive, an Amazon subsidiary, 4 million rubles (USD56,100; EUR52,300) for failing to remove fake content about Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
In addition, the magistrates’ court in Moscow’s Tagansky district also found Twitch guilty of failure to remove prohibited content, including an interview of former lawyer Mark Feigin (designated as a foreign agent in Russia) and former advisor to the Ukrainian Presidential Office Alexei Arestovich from the platform.
// TIKTOK //
TikTok CEO to testify before US Congress over security concerns
Scrutiny into the Chinese-owned video-sharing app TikTok continues. The company’s chief, Shou Zi Chew, will appear before the US Energy and Commerce Committee in March, the committee announced.
In his first appearance before a US congressional committee, TikTok’s CEO will be quizzed on the company’s consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms’ impact on kids, and their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.
Meanwhile, Michael Bennet, a US Senator on the intelligence committee, said that TikTok should be removed from Apple and Google app stores since the social media app poses a risk to national security.
// DATA PROTECTION //
Facebook seeks to block $3.7 billion UK mass action over market dominance
Facebook is seeking to block a UK lawsuit over alleged market dominance that could set the company back by up to GBP 3 billion (USD 3.7 billion, EUR 3.58 billion). The class action lawsuit, filed in 2022, argues that the company abused its dominant position to monetise users’ personal data.
Behind the lawsuit is Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior adviser to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog. She says she’s bringing the case on behalf of people in Britain who had used Facebook between 2015 and 2019, and who were not properly compensated for the value of personal data that they had to provide to use the platform.
|The week ahead (6–12 February)|
7 February: The 19th edition of Safer Internet Day, an initiative organised by the Insafe and INHOPE networks, will take place once again in countries across the world. The event’s aim is to promote the safe and positive use of digital technologies, especially among children and youth.
9 February: The European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will vote on several key legislative files, including the Data Act and the European Digital Identity framework.
10 February: The Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology has invited stakeholders to a series of open consultations on shaping the Global Digital Compact, an initiative of the UN Secretary-General. This week, it’s the private sector and technical community’s turn to participate. These consultations form part of an intergovernmental process led by co-facilitators Rwanda and Sweden.
Report: Spamming the regulator
A new report by the Corporate Europe Observatory looks into the lobbying practices of Big Tech in Brussels. The largest tech companies – Google, Amazon, Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, and Microsoft – are the biggest lobby sector by spending. What’s worrying is that according to the report, the EU’s competition branch ‘enjoys a regular revolving door’ with lobbyists. Full report.
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