On 17 December 2020, the media authority of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein initiated legal proceedings against Google Ireland Ltd. under Germany’s new Interstate Media Treaty (Medienstaatsvertrag – “MStV”, downloadable here, German only).  The authority (Landesmedienanstalt) is investigating whether Google’s treatment of information from a “National Health Portal” offered by the German Federal Ministry of Health (“Health Ministry”) constitutes a violation of the MStV.

Continue Reading Google Knowledge Panels Challenged In Germany

FCC Chairman Pai announced today that the FCC will move forward with a rulemaking to clarify the meaning of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA).  To date, Section 230 generally has been interpreted to mean that social media companies, ISPs, and other “online intermediaries” have not been subject to liability for their users’ actions.

On July 27, the Trump Administration—acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration—submitted a Petition for Rulemaking on Section 230, and Chairman Pai announced on August 3 that the FCC would seek public comment on the petition.  That petition asked the FCC to adopt rules to “clarify” the circumstances under which the liability shield of Section 230 applies.  Citing the FCC General Counsel’s reported position that the Commission has the legal authority to interpret Section 230, Chairman Pai today stated that a forthcoming agency rulemaking will strive to “clarify its meaning.”


Continue Reading FCC Announces Section 230 Rulemaking

FCC Chairman Pai announced today that the FCC would seek public comment on the Administration’s July 27 Petition for Rulemaking on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA)—the law that to date has meant that social media companies, ISPs, and other “online intermediaries” have not been subject to liability for their users’ actions. Comments will be due on Wednesday, September 2 and reply comments will be due on Thursday, September 17.

While there is much that is novel about the Petition itself, the FCC’s decision to seek comment on it appears to follow standard operating procedures. At this point, there is no indication of whether the FCC will take more formal steps attempting to adopt any of the rules proposed by the Administration.
Continue Reading FCC Seeks Comment on Section 230 Petition

On July 29, 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its judgment in the Fashion ID case (Case C-40/17).   The CJEU found that when a website operator embeds Facebook’s “Like” button on its website, Facebook and the website operator become joint controllers. The case clarifies the relationship between website operators and social networking sites whose plug-ins are embedded into websites for user tracking and online marketing purposes.  The ruling is expected to influence the contractual terms that companies will need to have in place when embedding such social plug-ins to their websites, and may also have ramifications for adtech practices more generally.

Continue Reading CJEU rules that Facebook and website operators are joint controllers if the website embeds Facebook’s “Like” button

On January 23, 2019, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced that it had secured undertakings from 16 social media influencers, including well-known names such as Ellie Goulding, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Rita Ora, that commit each influencer to increased transparency when they promote or endorse brands or services on social media on behalf of businesses.

The CMA stressed that applicable UK consumer law requires that it be made clear when posts are sponsored (i.e., paid or incentivized).  The CMA also disclosed that it has sent warning letters to other (unidentified) influencers and celebrities, and indicated it will continue to consider the role of social media platforms in this issue.

This enforcement action, together with the CMA’s recent success in court against secondary ticketing website Viagogo, and more recent threat to take Viagogo to court again, is evidence that consumer protection enforcement remains high on the CMA’s agenda.

Below, we summarise key elements of the undertakings in more detail, and also refer to further available UK regulatory guidance on how to advertise on social media.


Continue Reading UK Consumer Protection Regulator (“CMA”) Extracts Undertakings from Social Media Influencers to Increase Transparency in Sponsored Posts

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has just released a 75-page Green Paper on Modernising Consumer Markets, setting out the Government’s main priorities for the digital economy in a post-Brexit Britain. The Green Paper reflects on the current state of consumer markets and regulation, and lays down the key challenges and opportunities which will be the focus of the UK’s regulatory and competitive framework going forward. This poses consultation questions to stakeholders on hot topics in digital markets, including questions on: the adequacy of the current competition rules and privacy protections, supporting consumer-friendly innovation, use of and access to big data, whether personalised pricing should be regulated, sufficiently protecting customers without stifling innovation, and alternative dispute resolution solutions.

It also includes various proposals to ensure new technology and data are used to benefit customers, strengthen national enforcement of consumer rights, modernise the approach taken by regulators, and improve consumers’ access to alternative dispute resolution services. In this Covington blog post, we explore some of the key messages and questions posed by the Green Paper.


Continue Reading The UK Government Seeks Views on the Regulation of Digital Markets for a Post-Brexit Great Britain

The UK House of Lords Select Committee on Communications has recently opened a Public Consultation on ‘The Regulation of the Internet’, with submissions being accepted until Friday 11 May. The Call for Evidence can be accessed here.

The nine questions posed are relatively broad in scope, including: whether there is a need to introduce

On December 14, 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) voted along party lines to adopt a 210-page Declaratory Ruling, Report and Order, and Order (the “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” or “Order”) geared towards overhauling the net neutrality framework established during the Obama administration in 2015 (the “2015 Order”).  On February 22nd, the Order was officially published in the Federal Register — kicking off the period for filing of court challenges to the FCC’s decision and for efforts by Democrats in Congress to signal dissent through passing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act.

Against the backdrop of these actions at the federal level, for the past few months several states have taken matters into their own hands and begun proposing their own ways to restore the 2015 Order’s net neutrality rules within their borders.  Such efforts, even if successful at the state level, will likely be met in the courts by the Restoring Internet Freedom Order’s explicit statement that the Order preempts all “inconsistent state and local regulations.” 
Continue Reading States Battle to Resurrect Net Neutrality Rules

On 20 November, Covington hosted its webinar looking at developments in Net Neutrality and Zero-rating from both a US and a European perspective. Our presenters included ex-FCC Bureau Chief, Partner Matt DelNero from our DC office, and ex-DG Competition Head of Unit, Partner Kevin Coates and Senior Associate Siobhan Kahmann from our Brussels office. The

Date: Monday, November 20, 2017
4 p.m. CET
3 p.m. GMT
10 a.m. EST

Please join us for a webinar dedicated to net neutrality and zero-rating. This presentation will be hosted by Covington lawyers Matt DelNero from our Washington office, and Kevin Coates and Siobhan Kahmann from our London/Brussels offices.

This introductory webinar will be