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News and events

Catch up on the latest news from the world of digital and regulatory policy

Meta pulls news funding in Europe

Facebook News will cease in the UK, France and Germany. Meta announced that the tab on the platform that showcases news stories will be ‘deprecated’ in December. At the same time Meta will not renew funding for the Community News Project in the UK that has contributed $17 million to support journalism in underserved communities. The company said that news discovery is a ‘small part of the Facebook experience for the vast majority of people’ and that publishers will still be able to post news article links and content. Current obligations will be honoured ‘until they expire’. Meta has also said it will drop news feeds in Canada over legislation that mandates the payment of publishers and broadcasters for content.

Privacy/online harm

UK puts privacy scanning on hold

The UK government has conceded that powers in the new online safety bill requiring platforms to scan messages for harmful content will not be enforced for the foreseeable future. The expected announcement is designed to end a stand-off with tech companies who claim the measure is a threat to the privacy and security of their users. The statement outlines that Ofcom, the UK’s technology regulator, will only require companies to scan content when a technology is developed that is capable of doing so. The statement says that ‘a notice can only be issued where technically feasible and where technology has been accredited as meeting minimum standards of accuracy in detecting only child sexual abuse and exploitation content’. Privately, many technology observers question how long it will take to develop such a technology, or if it will be developed at all.


Tech companies challenge DMA ‘gatekeeper’ designation

Apple and Microsoft are disputing the inclusion of some of their services in the EU’s list of services to be regulated under the Digital Services Act. It is claimed that Microsoft’s Bing search engine, with a market share of three per cent, and Apple’s iMessage chat app are both too small to meet the threshold for ‘gatekeepers’. If covered by the new rules, Bing would need to give users a choice of other search engines, including Google, while Apple would have to open the iMessage service to rivals such as WhatsApp. Amazon and German online retailer Zalando are already taking the European Commission to court over their designations as ‘very large online platforms’ under the Digital Services Act. DMA: ‘Commission designates six gatekeepers’.

Artificial intelligence

Watermarks trialled as a solution to deepfakes

Google’s AI arm, DeepMind, is testing a digital watermark designed to identify images created by generative AI. SynthID works by embedding changes to individual pixels that are invisible to the human eye but detectable by computers. DeepMind has said that it is not foolproof against extreme image manipulation.  Major companies involved in AI development had previously committed to developing technology to watermark AI-generated content. The companies, including OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Meta and Amazon, claim watermarks will make it safer to share AI-generated text, video, audio and images without misleading people about their authenticity. Deepfakes have become a major concern for users and policymakers.


Gambia secures funding for new submarine cable

The Gambia will connect to a second fibre optic submarine cable by 2025, the government has announced. The new cable is expected to cost between 30 and 35 million USD, and will be financed by the world bank. The country has relied on the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) for high-speed internet services since 2012. The Gambian government is also planning to strengthen connectivity using satellites, and will approve ‘all necessary licences’ to Starlink by the end of September.

France hits 4G coverage milestone

France has inaugurated the 2,500th multi-operator 4G tower to be deployed under the ‘new deal for mobile’s’ targeted coverage scheme, which provides for the opening of more than 5,000 4G cell sites in rural areas in Metropolitan France by 2027. ‘This inauguration marks a symbolic milestone for the New Deal for Mobile which was established in 2018 on the Government’s initiative, and for the targeted coverage mechanism in particular’. Telcos operating in France ‘each committed to bringing coverage to 5,000 areas, identified by regional authorities and Government departments, and targeting local coverage needs’.

IIC Events

16-19 October, Cologne

Communications policy and regulation week, comprising the Annual Conference, International Regulators Forum and the Small Nations Regulators Forum.

9 November, Casablanca, Morocco

IIC Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Chapter event

15 November, London

Details to be confirmed.

5-6 December, Washington DC

Telecommunications and Media Forum, North America.

In Brief

Sparkle, the submarine cable unit of Telecom Italia, has announced the activation of the first section of its BlueMed submarine cable, connecting Palermo, Genoa and Milan. The BlueMed cable will eventually connect Italy with France, Greece and several countries in the Mediterranean, and reach as far as  Aqaba in Jordan.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it has provisionally approved the latest proposal for Microsoft’s takeover of Activision. The CMA noted that the deal was ‘substantially different’ to the one it had previously rejected. Its review is continuing and will be complete by 18 October.

Google will require political advertising to inform viewers when images and audio have been created using AI. The move is a ‘response to the growth of tools producing synthetic content’ and will be introduced in November, a year before the US presidential election.

Honda is the latest car maker to announce that it is switching away from the combined standard charging port for its electric vehicles. It will adopt the North America Charging Standard, a Tesla design, following Ford, Nissan, Volvo and several others.

Connected cars are a ‘privacy nightmare’, according to Mozilla. The foundation has published analysis revealing that car makers are collecting far too much personal data ‘from multiple sources’. ‘The worst product category we have ever reviewed’.

Microsoft has said that it will assume legal responsibility for copyright infringements created by the AI tools it offers to businesses, committing to pay legal costs for customers who are sued. Adobe made a similar pledge in June, as companies seek to reassure users over the use of AI tools for creative development.

The University of Bristol will host a new supercomputer research facility focused on AI. The new AI Research Resource (AIRR) will spearhead AI innovation and scientific discovery. The supercomputer will be known as Isambard-AI and will be the most powerful one in the UK.