Google Strike Down Illegal Ad Fine in Italy

Google has won a milestone case in Italy, managing to overturn an injunction and a fine imposed on the search engine platform and company for purportedly violating the country’s ban on gambling ads. In the original claim, the Italian regulator Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM) claimed that Google had allowed gamblers to work around the country’s blanket ban on gambling ads.

Passed under the highly-controversial “dignity decree,” the gambling advertisement ban in Italy has been enforced with unwavering strictness. AGCOM decided to demonstrate its willingness to take on any offender, including Google, by issuing a €100,000 fine, or roughly $115,000.

The original injunction was imposed for an ad about Sublime Casino that appeared when users entered search results for “online casino.”

The ad welcomed players to join what was described as a “new online casino,” featuring over 400 games and enabling any new arrivals to register within 30 minutes. The ad also extolled other qualities of the operators, such as the safety of its offer and no downloads required to participate.

Using “Cloaking” to Push Its Ad

Google admitted that the displayed content was pertaining to a gambling ad, but the company denied having placed the ad knowingly. Rather, it was inserted into its ads stream through illicit means, Google argued in its appeal of the injunction.

Google assured that it had used adequate screening processes, but many of those were automated and trusted businesses were generally allowed to submit ads as they saw fit, with some checks following up shortly after.

However, in the case of Sublime Casino, the operator apparently used something known as “cloaking” to make sure that the initial Google screening would not catch wind of any prohibited content. However, Google argued that as soon as its Ireland subsidiary understood an illegal ad had been pushed through, it proceeded to remove the illicit content from its platform.

Google argued that as a result of its actions, its injunction and fine should be invalid as it had complied with the requirements of the dignity decree. The company reached out to the Regional Administrative Court for Lazio to make its case and won. The court used parallels with other illegal cases and found that Google had not knowingly pushed the advertisement and had acted in accordance with the law to take it down.

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