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Back Video sharing platforms in Europe: how do we regulate online advertising and protect ourselves from harmful & illegal content?

The European Audiovisual Observatory has just published two free comparative mapping reports which explore how the various European countries have adapted their audiovisual legislation to face up to the online challenges of video sharing platforms.
Video sharing platforms in Europe: how do we regulate online advertising and protect ourselves from harmful & illegal content?

Download "Mapping report on the rules applicable to video-sharing platforms: focus on commercial communications" here

We're all familiar with the adverts preceding YouTube content, for example. But who's keeping watch on these? How does European audiovisual law deal with online advertising present on video sharing platforms? This new mapping report, requested by the European Commission, tracks the legal measures in place to regulate the use of online adverts or audiovisual commercial communications as they're technically known, and offers an overview of the most significant self- and co-regulatory initiatives in this field. The report includes a pan-European comparative analysis as well as including detailed country profiles. It reflects the state of play of October 2022. 

European countries have transposed the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) into their own national legislation and it is this national approach, based on European law, which aims at regulating online advertising - meaning that VSP providers are responsible for ensuring that adverts which have been sold or arranged by them respect the national laws in place.

Our report finds that:

  • The rules become stricter when adverts concern alcohol or foods and beverages containing nutrients and substances with a nutritional or physiological effect (fatty substances or sugar, for example).
  • Rules on sponsorship and product placement as detailed in the AVMSD do apply to adverts carried by VSPs but they generally only apply in a minority of cases.
  • As far as less explored notions of online advertising are concerned, the most regulated area is gambling, which is predominantly covered under special gambling legislation or advertising legislation and, in some cases, self-regulatory instruments. 
  • Environmental or “green” claims are less regulated, but are often referred to in connection with unfair commercial practices or fall within the scope of misleading advertising.

Given that video sharing platform often operate on a trans-national basis,  cross-border collaboration between regulators is of crucial importance, as recognised by the revised AVMSD.
This new report covers all EU member states, Norway and the UK.  It provides a detailed, country-by-country analysis of national audiovisual law and the provisions in place to regulate commercial communications carried by video sharing platforms.


Download "Mapping of national rules applicable to video-sharing platforms: Illegal and harmful content online" here

Today's video sharing platforms are full of content which could easily be divided into three very famous categories: “The Good, the Bad and the (frankly very) Ugly”. It's clear that VSPs need their sheriffs, cowboys and law makers in order to protect us from illegal and harmful content on the Wild Wild Web. So how is European law protecting us from the wild side of video sharing platforms? 

Under the revised AVMSD, VSPs have to fulfill certain rules and obligations related to the protection of minors from harmful content. They also have to protect the general public from illegal content and content that incites violence or hatred. 

Strategies currently in use include flagging mechanisms to allow us to signal illegal content, media literacy tools to educate us on how to use VSPs with more caution, and adaptations of services’ terms and conditions. Moreover, this has consequences for national media regulatory authorities under whose jurisdiction VSPs now fall.

It is against this general background that the European Commission requested the European Audiovisual Observatory to prepare a mapping report on how the rules applicable to VSPs have been transposed into national legal frameworks.The 2022 update of the mapping report builds upon the original 2021 report to incorporate the latest developments in the transposition of the AVMSD.

This report includes a pan-European comparative analysis, detailed country profiles, as well as the perspective of industry stakeholders. It reflects the state of play as at May 2021 and contains information following an update in September 2022.
Find out how European countries protect their media consumers from dangerous and illegal content online!

Strasbourg 14 February 2023
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