The American multinational technology conglomerate Alphabet and its wholly-owned subsidiary Google managed to dodge a €750,000 fine that could have been imposed on both entities by the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM). The regulatory body had previously accused the companies of violating Italian advertising legislation by allowing gambling ads on YouTube.
A court, however, has disagreed with these claims.
In August 2022, AGCOM officially handed the aforementioned monetary penalty to Google and its advertising partner Top ADS. At the time, the regulator confirmed that the adverts’ appearance breached Italy’s advertising laws that prohibit gambling ads from targeting local consumers. Google appealed the Communications Authority’s decision for the fine, and the legal action was only recently brought to an end.
The Lazio Regional Administrative Court issued a ruling that the US tech giant cannot be held responsible for the ads that allegedly violated the country’s advertising rules. The court further explained that, as a hosting provider, Google is not eligible for sanctions that could be imposed under the principles of the European and Italian jurisprudence.
These are exactly the legal restrictions that provide companies with some protection in certain situations.
Appellate Court Rules Google Could Not Be Held Liable for YouTube Gambling Ads Controversy
According to the ruling of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court, hosting providers limit themselves to the creation and provision of a virtual space where their users are able to upload their own content. This basically means that such companies are not directly involved in any offense, should one occur as part or as a result of uploading users’ content.
Of course, the scope of the legal precedent is limited. If a regulatory body requests the removal of content that contradicts the country’s laws and a hosting provider does not act as quickly as possible, it can be held liable for its lack of action. However, if the hosting providers take reasonable measures to take down the offensive or controversial content after getting the request, they cannot be held liable for any of the removed content.
According to the aforementioned court, in that particular case with the YouTube videos, the Italian Communications Authority could not provide enough evidence that Google played an active role either in authoring or publishing the offensive content. Therefore, it sided with the US tech giant and upheld its appeal of the AGCOM decision.
This is not the first time Google has been involved in a similar situation in the territory of Italy. The company actually had a similar argument with the country’s Communications Authority several years ago.
In November 2019, AGCOM issued a note that a paid advertisement appeared in the first result of the company’s search engine as a result of the words “online casino” (in Italian) being inserted into that search engine machine. The link pointed to a “.com” platform, making the advert illegal. At the time, the regulatory body handed two fines of €50,000 to Google, with the US tech giant appealing the monetary penalties. Just like the most recent case, the Lazio Regional Administrative Court ruled in Google’s favor.