Take 10 #17
Welcome to RPC's media and communications law update. This issue reports on key media developments and the latest cases.
Following the Age Appropriate Design Code coming into full force earlier this month and with online safety regulation on the horizon, TikTok has announced a suite of new resources put in place to support wellbeing. When a user searches for words related to suicide or self-harm, they will be directed to local charities and organisations for support and, if the user has opted-in, the search results will include videos from TikTok creators about their personal experiences of mental health and how to seek help. Other changes include the company expanding its warning labels, meaning that potentially distressing content will now be covered by default, and users will have to click an additional button to actually display the results. Guides concerning wellbeing will also be available through the site's Safety Centre. TikTok has also recently boosted parental controls and disabled private messaging by default for younger users, amongst other bolstered privacy features.
EU press freedom
The Association of Independent Journalists and the Committee for Editorial Independence have jointly published a report concerning challenges to the press and independent media across member states, which they say are yet to be met with a firm response by the EU. The report includes many examples from different states including the withholding of licences, the withdrawal of advertising, spurious reliance on foreign ownership laws, the intimidation of journalists, and even allegations of mafia-style executions. The report calls on the bloc to urgently enforce their rules and sanction member states which are not abiding by their commitments under EU membership
The regulation of online harms continues to be discussed in government.This week, executives from Google and Facebook told the Treasury Select Committee that it would be a challenge for the Online Safety Bill to regulate scam advertisements as it is designed for dealing with harms caused directly via user-to-user content and search engine results, as opposed to harm caused by fraud, which involves a number of 'touchpoints' both online and offline before it occurs (see Evening Standard report). Campaigners including the consumer champion Which? and Martin Lewis have been calling on the government to include financial scams in the Bill, following their rise in recent years. Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner has been interviewed by the joint super committee scrutinising the Bill itself. Based on the ICO's experience, Ms Denham said the provisions and structure already tabled are capable of changing behaviour but she recommended that they go further by empowering Ofcom to conduct audits in order "to be able to look under the bonnet" of the companies subject to the legislation.
G7 Data Summit
The ICO met with the data protection and privacy authorities from G7 countries earlier this month to discuss shared emerging challenges in the context of the "growing global, data-driven economy and the changes brought by the ongoing pandemic." A communiqué summarising the key points discussed indicates the data authorities intend to strengthen cross-collaboration with competition regulators in respect of digital markets, create a more privacy-orientated internet, seek for AI to be regulated in line with data protection, ensure the free-flow of data between countries, and redesign regulatory remedies for the digital age, amongst other points. The Information Commissioner published a blog emphasising the importance of 'data free flows with trust' in the wake of the meeting. These forward-looking proposals come shortly after the UK government announced that the data landscape will be reformed post-Brexit, as part of plans to "use the power of data to drive growth and create jobs while keeping high data protection standards". The Trade Secretary has also this week unveiled a five-point plan for establishing a free and fair digital landscape "to help UK business and consumers thrive".
Back to school
The Michaelmas Term will commence on Friday 1 October, and will run until 21 December 2021. The team hopes all Take 10 readers had a good summer vacation.
ICO guide on journalism
The ICO is expected to publish in draft an updated version of its journalism code in early October. A consultation process will follow, with publication of the final code likely to fall in early 2022. The ICO published a blog updating the public on its on-going work on the draft earlier this year.
You said what?
Ofcom has published an updated guide concerning the public's attitude towards offensive language. The document categorises words 'mild', 'moderate' or 'strong', and is intended to serve as a quick reference guide on the acceptability of terms on TV and radio. Aside from its utility for broadcasters' legal and compliance officers, the updates provide an interesting insight on how public opinion has changed over time. New terms included in the guide since it was last published in September 2016 include: 'handicapped', 'a Karen', 'chav' and 'femi-nazi'. 'Gay' as a standalone word is no longer included in the guide, whilst 'that's gay' has been newly added.
OpenDemocracy has conducted a survey amongst governmental departments which indicates that the UK government has, in the past five years, spent at least half a million pounds of taxpayers' money trying to prevent the release of information sought pursuant to FOI requests, including requests made by journalists and the ICO. The total is anticipated to be higher, as some departments refused to provide any figures, including the Cabinet Office which runs a Clearing House responsible for vetting FOI responses from across the government.
BBC Three has been provisionally approved to return as a TV channel six years after it was taken off broadcast television. The BBC previously made the channel online-only under the impression that younger audiences no longer consumed television in a traditional capacity. Meanwhile, News UK has announced it will launch its own TV channel called TalkTV in early 2022, with Piers Morgan already signed up to present on the channel.
A former Soviet chess champion, Nona Gaprindashvili, is suing Netflix in Los Angeles for defamation. The lawsuit relates to a single line in the Queen's Gambit which suggested Gaprindashvili had never played chess with men. Gaprindashvili's lawsuit calls it a "devastating falsehood, undermining and degrading her accomplishments before an audience of many millions", on the basis she had in fact faced at least 59 male players at the time the series was set. In a statement provided to the media, a Netflix spokesperson said, "Netflix has only the utmost respect for Ms. Gaprindashvili and her illustrious career, but we believe this claim has no merit and will vigorously defend the case."
Quote of the fortnight:
"At a time of an urgent global debate about the retreat of democracies in the face of growing authoritarianism, whose aims are furthered by disinformation and fake news, the Commission and other European institutions must protect media freedom as an overriding priority."
Report by the Association of Independent Journalists and Committee for Editorial Independence: Europe's Free Press Under Siege