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Could Facebook and Instagram Really be Banned in Europe?

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Social Media Fuels Division and Angst – But Solving the Underlying Issues at Play is Hugely Complex

Could Facebook and Instagram really be shut down in Europe?

Over the weekend, several reports suggested that Facebook’s parent company Meta may consider shutting down its services within the EU due to an ongoing legal challenge over how it handles EU user data.

The reports came on the back of this note, which was included in Meta’s most recent SEC update:

“In August 2020, we received a preliminary draft decision from the Irish Data Protection Commission (IDPC) that preliminarily concluded that Meta Platforms Ireland’s reliance on Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) in respect of European user data does not achieve compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and preliminarily proposed that such transfers of user data from the European Union to the United States should therefore be suspended. We believe a final decision in this inquiry may issue as early as the first half of 2022. If a new transatlantic data transfer framework is not adopted and we are unable to continue to rely on SCCs or rely upon other alternative means of data transfers from Europe to the United States, we will likely be unable to offer a number of our most significant products and services, including Facebook and Instagram, in Europe, which would materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.”

This is not a new thing.

As Meta notes, back in 2020, a European Union privacy regulator sent the company a preliminary order to suspend data transfers to the US about its EU users. The order was based on rising concerns among EU officials in regards to potential surveillance practices by the US Government. The specifics of the perceived threat in this instance were not made clear, but the move did follow shortly after the Trump Administration’s push to ban several Chinese-originated apps from America, including TikTok, due to concerns that they could be used to provide China’s ruling CCP with data on US citizens.

That push didn’t end up going through, and TikTok, as well as many other Chinese apps, continue to operate in the US. But the TikTok example did raise new concerns about the safety of foreign nations tracking citizens through social apps, and the potential ways in which such data could be misused by regional entities, if they were so inclined.

There’s seemingly less cause for concern on this front between the US and EU nations, given their partnership on most fronts. But even so, it is a lingering issue, and as Meta now notes, an official ruling on this case could be coming in the next few months, which could, at least in theory, force Meta to re-assess how it stores user data.

Which could result in it removing Facebook and Instagram from the region.

That would obviously be a big step, and it does seem more like posturing at this stage, as opposed to something that Meta would actually do. But then again, in February last year, Meta did cut off all Australian news publishers from its platforms due to a dispute over revenue share, showing that it is willing to take big action in certain cases.

If it has to. Meta could still come to an agreement about user data transfers, ensuring that it can continue to process EU user data within its US-based data centers. Or it may be forced to keep it all within the region.

Note that Meta does already operate data centers in Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark, and it just recently applied to build another in the Netherlands. So it’s not entirely out of the question that Meta could align with any such requirements, potentially, if it had to. But it would be a significant undertaking, and it could also limit user data analysis, at a time when Meta is already dealing with reduced capacity on this front due to Apple’s iOS 14 update.

The other potential advantage for EU nations here could relate to tax obligations, and ensuring that Meta pays its fair share in each region. If Meta is forced to wholly operate in each nation, and establish fully localized offices, along with data processing, that could limit its capacity to focus on low tax nations to set up regional bases.

That’s a longer bow, and not essentially the focus of this proposal, but the concept is that such regulations ensure data sovereignty in each region, which could also relate to governance in other areas too.

But overall, a full EU shutdown of Facebook and Instagram seems unlikely. Facebook alone has 427 million users in the EU, and it was the only region where it saw any significant growth (+4m MAU) in the most recent quarter. And that’s not including Instagram.

Would Meta really be willing to cut that many people off entirely?

My guess would be that they would need to exhaust all avenues before that happens, and with a ruling not yet finalized, we’re not at that next stage just yet.


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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today’s Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Solar Flares Or Sabotage? Internet Theories On Today's Massive Cell Phone Outage

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Massive cell phone outages across America are being reported today by customers of AT&T, Cricket Wireless, Verizon, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Boost Mobile, US Cellular, and Straight Talk Wireless, according to data from Downdetector, an online platform that monitors connectivity. That story and more news you need to read today, inside.

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

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Meta Expands Access to Instagram’s Creator Marketplace

Meta has announced that it’s finally expanding access to its Creator Marketplace tool, which will give more businesses the capacity to search for creators to work with on their Instagram campaigns.

Meta first launched its Creator Marketplace back in 2022, enabling U.S.-based brands to search and connect with relevant platform influencers based on a range of qualifiers, including focus topics, follower counts, location, etc.

And now, businesses in the following regions will also be able to access the tool:

  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • Japan
  • India
  • Brazil

In addition to this, Meta also says that Chinese export brands will also be invited to connect with onboarded creators in countries outside of China.

Which is interesting, considering Meta’s tenuous history with the CCP’s “Great Firewall”, but the deal here relates to Chinese businesses operating in regions outside of their homeland, which is somewhat separate to Meta’s internal dealings.

In addition to expanding access, Meta’s also rolling new machine learning-based recommendations within Creator Marketplace, which will use Instagram data to help brands more easily discover creators who are the best fit for their campaigns.

Instagram Creator Marketplace

As you can see in this example, the new recommendations will highlight accounts that have strong engagement rates in your niche, have mentioned your brand in the past, or have produced good results for similar businesses.

That could make it easier to find the right fit, or at the least, to give you more options to consider in your process.

Branded Content collaborations can be highly effective on IG, by using the established expertise and experience of creators who have already built a following in the app, and know what works, to boost your promotions.

By working with the right creators, with connection to your target audience, you can secure valuable endorsement within key communities, which can help to germinate your branding in the right communities.

Brands can check out Instagram’s creator marketplace in Meta Business Suite, with access coming to these new regions shortly.



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X Faces Restrictions in India and Pakistan Amid Government Orders for Content Removals

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New Report Finds That X May Be Inflating its Ad Performance Results

X is facing new challenges in both India and neighboring Pakistan, with the Indian Government calling on X to censor specified accounts to counter unrest, and Pakistani officials seemingly blocking access to X altogether, amid accusations of vote rigging in its recent election.

Firstly, in India. As confirmed by X, the Indian Government has issued a new order for X to ban users that it has identified as prompting civil disobedience.

As per X:

“The Indian government has issued executive orders requiring X to act on specific accounts and posts, subject to potential penalties including significant fines and imprisonment. In compliance with the orders, we will withhold these accounts and posts in India alone; however, we disagree with these actions and maintain that freedom of expression should extend to these posts.”

X says that even though it is moving to fulfill these orders, it will also continue to challenge the Indian Government’s bans through whatever legal means it has available.

It’s not the first time that the Indian Government has demanded specific censorship from the platform, with both X and previous Twitter management being called upon to remove certain comments and users who’ve gone against official rulings.

Last year, X was forced to remove a BBC documentary that was critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after it was banned in the nation, which many used as an example to highlight X’s inability to uphold its own free speech approach.  

Twitter, meanwhile, was served with a non-compliance notice in 2021 for refusing to action similar account takedown demands from the Indian Government. In that instance, which directly related to civil unrest, India threatened to shut down Twitter entirely in response, while it also suggested that the company’s Indian staff could face up to seven years jail time for failing to comply.

As such, Twitter was effectively forced to action India’s requests, in order to protect its staff (note: The Indian Government has denied that any such threats occurred).

Both incidents serve as reminders of how authoritarian regimes will look to control mass communication platforms, like Twitter and X, in order to manage messaging, and combat noncompliance.

Pakistan, too, has a long history of seeking to control social platforms, though more notably due to “inappropriate content”, as opposed to what users are saying. Pakistan, which is a Muslim country, has banned various apps, at different times, in response to concerns about content, though in this latest instance, it does seem to be taking a leaf out of India’s book in using bans to quell civil unrest.

X will now have to find a way to maintain an adequate balance between adhering to such requests, while upholding its own “free speech” ethos, though X owner Elon Musk has been clear from the start that his free speech push will not go beyond the bounds of local laws in each region.

So while Twitter has challenged India’s requests in the past, and X has vowed to seek further legal clarification around the same, it will be aligning with the Indian government’s requests, and removing users and content in line with their requirements.

Does that mean that X isn’t willing to stand its ground on its much lauded open speech approach?

No, not when the alternative is to see X banned entirely, which would eliminate all speech for the impacted individuals, and reduce all protests against government action.

And no matter what your opinion of X may be, it is still a highly influential platform, in many ways, which is why officials are still looking to control the discussion in the app.

Though the bigger for question for Elon specifically is how such actions could impact his other businesses.

Tesla is still working to get into the emerging Indian market, which could become a huge sales opportunity for the company. Tesla’s been working with the Indian Government to enact new concessions on import duties, in order to bring its vehicles to market, and it’d be interesting to know whether Indian officials have used such as a lever to pressure action at X.

Based on what we know, it does seem like X would have little choice either way, but it’s another consideration in this instance, which could cause some uncomfortable internal discussions around the same.



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