The Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM) sanctioned Google for €750,000 as the parent company of YouTube for violating the country’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. Ad agency Top Ads Ltd received an additional fine of €700,000.
Google Failed To Moderate the Illegal Content
Italy’s gambling authority held a press release, noting that this was the first time it had adopted this measure against a video-sharing service provider. Google’s fine resulted from its consent to allow the dissemination of gambling advertisements on its YouTube platform.
The investigation concluded that Google, ad agency Top Ads Ltd, and the content creator, all had violated the dignity decree – the 2019 law banning all gambling advertisements in Italy. According to AGCOM, Google had not implemented the necessary measures to prevent users from posting illicit content and had not taken action against existing offenders. The regulator pointed out that Top Ads’ Spike had a partnership contract with the multi-billion-dollar company and even held the status of “verified partner.”
The Ads Will Be Taken Down Within a Week
The Italian regulator did not limit its response to just sanctions. It decreed that 625 pieces of illegal content had to be removed from YouTube and the spikeslot.com website within seven days. AGCOM also prohibited the dissemination and uploading of similar video content, referring to the most recent rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union.
This incident is not the first case Google found itself in hot water for illegal advertisement in Italy. On 22 October 2020, AGCOM fined the company €100,000. However, the Regional Administrative Court for Lazio overturned the regulator’s verdict, accepting Google’s defense, stating that the company did not have knowledge or control over the offending advertisement, which had circumvented their security checks.
Illegal Gambling Ads Are a Recurring Problem
Codacons, one of the most significant consumer rights defense associations operating in Italy, lauded AGCOM’s decision to remove the illegal video gambling ads. The organization’s president, Carlo Rienzi, noted that websites, apps, and social networks constantly attempted to circumvent advertising restrictions. He stated that this phenomenon could bring great harm, especially considering that most gamblers were young people most at risk of gambling addiction.
Rienzi quoted data from Italy’s Customs and Monopoly Agency. In its 2017 report, the authority discovered that Italians had spent €101.8 billion on gambling that year. According to his estimates, that sum would entail an expense of €1780 per year for each family in the country. Considering actual users were not so uniform, Rienzi deduced that many people engaging in gambling were seriously endangering their financial standing.
Codacons has called for a widespread crackdown on illegal advertising in Italy. The association acknowledged that the fine against Google was a step in the right direction, but the amount was pitifully small compared to the web giant’s turnover.