On Thursday, Italy’s communication watchdog, AGCOM, announced the approval of new regulations that empower it to instruct online video-sharing platforms to eliminate “harmful content” as a measure to safeguard minors and consumers within the country. The updated regulations, which will take effect from January 8, 2024, and potentially affect services such as Google’s YouTube, TikTok, and Meta’s Instagram, will target videos that may harm the physical or mental development of minors, incite racial, sexual, religious or ethnic hatred, or offend human dignity.
The new regulation promotes co- and self-regulation among audiovisual media service providers and video-sharing platforms. It encourages them to set up codes of conduct to combat the online distribution of content violating the principles established in the regulation. They are also invited to adopt effective systems for identifying, reporting, and eliminating online hate content. In addition, they are required to send the Authority quarterly reports indicating the content they have monitored and their operating methods and verification systems.
According to published reports, the rulings require that video websites issue corrections within 48 hours of receiving complaints about defamatory material and respect the day content unsuitable for children may not be shown. However, the details of some aspects of the new rules still need to be clarified, including how websites that are permanently available and operate from abroad will be able to fall into line with the requirement to respect children’s television viewing times. A spokeswoman for YouTube’s parent company, Google, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Telecom Italia, the largest cable operator in the country, said her company was studying the implications of the ruling.
Another significant aspect of the new law is a directive limiting minors’ access to their data, including those uploaded by third parties, and prohibiting it from being used for commercial purposes, direct marketing, or profiling. It also forbids the processing of sensitive personal information, such as those related to the sexual health of teenagers or criminal behavior, in a way that can threaten their life and liberty.
The new laws come as Italian authorities have cracked down on juvenile crime in recent months after a series of high-profile cases involving gangs and violence against teenage girls. Last week, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visited the socially deprived and crime-ridden suburb of Caviano near Naples, where the far-right Brothers of Italy party has been linked to a number of the incidents. She promised to step up efforts to increase security in the area, jail parents of school truants, and impose fines on the parents of those caught engaging in dangerous activities. The decree is named after a 14-year-old girl who was repeatedly gang raped in the neighborhood. It is the first time that a country in the Western world has imposed such rules on Internet use to protect children and adolescents.