European Union orders Facebook and Google to prevent consumer scams

EU consumer authorities to take on Facebook Google Twitter

The European Commission and European consumer protection authorities have requested that Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc make changes to their terms of service for Europe, Reuters reports.

The European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Věra Jourová, said it was unacceptable that European consumers had to take their disputes with the companies to courts in California, and that they were deprived of their rights under EU law to withdraw from online purchases.

Other issues reported in the letters Reuters obtained included not identifying "sponsored" (i.e. advertising) content clearly enough; requring consumers to waive mandatory rights; and "an excessive power for the companies to determing the suitability of content generated by users".

The authorities and the European Commission met with the companies on Thursday to discuss their proposed changes, and gave them a month to make their final proposals, the European Commission said Friday. The discussions with the authorities were described as positive.

Germany, the most populous European Union state, said this week it planned a new law calling for social networks such as Facebook to remove slanderous or threatening online postings quickly or face fines of up to 50 million euros ($53 million). The draft bill, which was introduced by justice minister Heiko Mass on Tuesday, is created to reduce hate crime and criminal activity on social platforms.

What remains to be seen is if the companies will comply with the EU's demands, and if so, whether those revised terms would be applied on a global basis or exclusively for European users. It will cover defamation, slander, public prosecution, crimes and threats, and is meant to reduce so-called hate crime and criminal offences on social networks.

United States technology companies have faced tight scrutiny in Europe for the way they do business, from privacy to how quickly they remove illegal or hateful content.

Having expressed concerned about privacy in Windows 10 and the scanning of Yahoo emails, the European Commission is now turning its attention to Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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