The Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) issued a monetary sanction of €750,000 to Google as a parent company of the American online video-sharing and social media platform YouTube for breaching the blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country. An additional fine of €700,000 was received by the advertising agency Top Ads Ltd.
The Italian gambling authority issued an official press release, saying that the enforcement action was the first time it had adopted such a measure against a video-sharing service operator. The monetary fine that was eventually imposed on Google resulted from the company’s consent to allow its policy of publishing gambling ads on its YouTube platform.
Following an investigation, the search engine technology company, the ad agency Top Ads Ltd, as well as the content creator had breached the dignity decree – a 2019 piece of legislation under which all gambling adverts are currently suspended on the territory of Italy. According to the Italian Communications Authority, Google had not implemented the necessary measure to prevent users from publishing illegal content and had not taken action against offenders that have already been violating the rules.
Italy’s communications and advertising regulator further revealed that Top Ads’ Spike had inked a partnership agreement with the multi-billion-dollar company and was even tagged as a “verified partner”.
AGCOM Unveils 625 Pieces of Illicit Gambling Advertising Content on Google’s YouTube and Spikeslot.com Platforms
The response of the Italian communications regulatory body was not limited to sanctions only. The AGCOM revealed that 625 pieces of illicit content had to be removed from YouTube and spikeslot.com platform within 7 days. The watchdog also banned the further spreading and uploading of similar video content, making a reference to the most recent rulings of the European Union’s Court of Justice.
The incident is not the first time when Google faced prosecution for unlawful advertising in Italy. Two years ago, on October 22nd, 2020, the Italian Communications Authority imposed a €100,000 fine on the company. At a later stage, the regulatory decision was overturned by the Regional Administrative Court for Lazio after accepting Google’s claims that the company was unaware of the offending advertisement and was unable to control it because the advert had managed to circumvent Google’s security checks.
One of the largest consumer rights defense bodies in Italy – Codacons – highly praised the country’s communications authority to remove the illegal video gambling adverts and make them unreachable to local people. Carlo Rienzi, the organization’s president, shared that all kinds of social networks, websites and mobile applications constantly try to circumvent the country’s advertising restrictions, which could seriously harm users, especially considering the fact that the majority of gamblers were young people who are more susceptible to problem gambling and gambling harm.
So far, Codacons has urged the local authorities to adopt a more widespread crackdown on unlawful advertising across the country. The association described the latest monetary fine faced by Google as a step in the right direction, but still noted that the amount was quite small, especially in comparison to the company’s turnover.
According to the 2017 report of the Customs and Monopoly Agency in Italy, Italian residents’ spending on gambling that year amounted to a total of €101.8 billion, which would entail an expense of €1,780 for each family in the country on an annual basis.