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Social media giants not doing enough to protect users: EU

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Social media giants not doing enough to protect users: EU

Social media

(BRUSSELS) - Social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, are dragging their feet in responding to requests from the EU Commission and national consumer authorities to comply with EU consumer rules.

The EU executive published on Thursday changes made by Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to align their terms of services with EU consumer protection rules. This shows that they have only "partially addressed important issues about their liability" and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination.

The changes, says the Commission, benefit more than a quarter of a billion of EU consumers who use social media: EU consumers will not be forced to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase; they will be able to lodge their complaints in Europe, rather than in California; and the platforms will take up their fair share of responsibilities towards EU consumers, similarly to the off-line service providers. However, the changes only partially fulfil the requirements under EU consumer law.

"As social media networks are used as advertising and commercial platforms, they must fully respect consumer rules," said Justice and Consumer Commissioner Vera Jourova: "I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers; however, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time."

Google's latest proposals "appear to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities", says the Commission. However, Facebook and, more significantly, Twitter, have only partially addressed important issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination.

When it comes to the "notice and action procedure" used by consumer protection authorities to report and request the removal of illegal content, the changes by some companies are insufficient. While Google+ has set up a protocol, including deadlines to deal with the requests, Facebook and Twitter have only agreed to provide a dedicated e-mail address that national authorities can use to notify infringements, without committing to deal with such requests within specific timeframes.

Following numerous complaints by consumers who had been targeted by fraud or scams when using these websites, as well as having been subject to certain terms of services that do not respect EU consumer law, an enforcement action was launched in November 2016.

Since then, social media operators specifically agreed to amend:

  • the terms of services limiting or totally excluding the liability of social media networks in connection with the performance of the service;
  • the terms requiring consumers to waive mandatory EU consumer rights, such as their right to withdraw from an on-line purchase;
  • the terms depriving consumers of their right to go to court in their Member State of residence, and providing the application of California law;
  • the term releasing the platform from the duty to identify commercial communications and sponsored content.

The companies committed to implement the changes to their terms in all language versions in the first quarter of 2018.

The Commission says it will present a 'New Deal for Consumers' this April, which will propose to modernise existing consumer law and ensure it is properly enforced.

Table with the changes to the terms and conditions


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