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2019

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal independent agency with responsibilities for enforcing US labor law, concluded that Uber drivers are independent contractors and not employees. The classification as independent contractors means that drivers have no right to form a union, bargain collectively, minimum wage, overtime pay among other traditional rights related to employment status. The NLRB’s decision serves as a recommendation for ruling in future cases in the US. The NLRB’s general counsel’s office based its decision on the fact that drivers are not subordinate to the ride-hailing platform and have “control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber”. The NLRB released the advisory document on 21 May, a month after it was originally issued.​​

The 2019 Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) Corporate Accountability Index reports progress in corporate accountability but states that 'most companies still leave users in the dark about key policies and practices affecting privacy and freedom of expression'. The 2019 RDR Corporate Accountability Index analyses and compares 24 of the world's most prominent Internet and mobile ecosystem and telecommunications companies. Because the report includes products and services 'used by more than half of the world’s 4.3 billion internet users', it is a valuable indicator of the current situation of user protection. Microsoft and Telefónica lead their respective rankings.

                                                   

                                                    Source: Ranking Digital Rights

The US Supreme Court has ruled in case Apple v. Pepper, 17-204 that the consumers may proceed with antitrust claims against Apple for forcing them to buy apps exclusively from Apple, therefore monopolising the retail market for apps. Apple currently buys apps from developers and adds a 30% markup. According to the US Supreme Court opinion, Apple has to amend its terms of service so the consumers pay the price directly to the developers and the developers remit the markup to Apple. If the antitrust case of the consumers wins on merit, this would affect many other platforms functioning on similar principle, such as Google Play and Amazon, as well as the liability of intermediaries.

The UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on child protection, Simon Bailey suggests that the only way to force social media companies to pay attention and initiate steps to protect children online is a public boycott. He shared that currently he has not seen any initiatives taken by social media companies that indicate their sincerity to safeguarding children online. He added ‘Ultimately I think the only thing they will genuinely respond to is when their brand is damaged. Ultimately the financial penalties for some of the giants of this world are going to be an absolute drop in the ocean’.

 

 

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a legal opinion to the CJEU, affirming that Airbnb is an information society service. The legal opinion is not binding, but the court takes the advice of its advocate general in the majority of the cases. The judgment is expected later in the year. The case was referred by a court in Paris, where a French tourism association claimed that Airbnb should be submitted to the same accounting, insurance, and financial obligations as providers of real estate. The advocate general holds that Airbnb is not a real estate broker, therefore, should not have its activities ruled by French real estate laws. He believes that Airbnb provides a service to connect potential guests with hosts offering short-term accommodation ‘in a situation in which the provider of that service does not exercise control over the essential procedures for the provisions of those services’. Under the terms of the E-Commerce Directive, this practice concerns information society services. The directive allows businesses to provide information services across EU member states without restriction. This case will have significant consequences on how EU member states regulate Airbnb activities. The platform has been fighting claims from European cities, including Paris, Brussels, and Madrid, that it should be more heavily regulated. If its activities are understood as information society services by the CJEU, states in the EU will be more limited on how they can regulate the platform. In 2017, the CJEU had ruled that Uber was not only an information society service but a transportation service provider. This ruling allowed EU member states to impose restrictions on Uber’s activities.

The European Commission has sent a letter to Facebook’s head of global affairs advising the platform to rethink its rules aimed at protecting elections from foreign interference, according to the Guardian. In an attempt to tackle foreign intervention in elections, Facebook has implemented new rules requiring political advertisers to register in the country that is the target of the campaign. The EU believes that these rules will prevent European political groups from advertising cross-countries campaigns for the European elections in May. The EU recognises Facebook’s liability when foreign entities illegally interfere in national and regional elections. However, it also believes the new rules do not work in the EU and may breach EU laws.

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