Social Media Scrutiny Ramps Up Worldwide

By Chuck Siefke, Staff Writer

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Social media networks have faced significant scrutiny over the years due to a variety of practices. Most recently, data protection, privacy, and mental health concerns have risen to be the most prominent issues. Both the United States and European Union have set out to address these issues, with different approaches and results.

The European Union (“EU”) is considered by many to be at the forefront of data protection and privacy regulations when it comes to big tech and social media.[1] Through several regulations, most prominently the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), which is EU legislation that governs the way data is stored, processed, and used, the EU has fined various social media networks for various infringements.[2] This year alone the EU has fined multiple social media sites for data protection violations.[3] Back in May, Meta, Facebook’s parent company, was fined $1.3 billion and ordered to stop transferring personal information of users between the United States and Europe.[4] Additionally, Meta will be required to delete the data that was transferred in violation of the EU’s laws.[5] Meta could potentially be required to delete all the data for hundreds of millions of EU citizens going back several years.[6] Most recently, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, on behalf of the European Union, fined TikTok $368 million for failing to protect children’s privacy on their platform.[7] Amongst the issues with TikTok’s practices included the fact that TikTok’s default sign-up process made a user’s account automatically public.[8] The Irish regulators are also conducting a second investigation into whether the social media outlet was compliant with the GDPR when it transferred users’ personal information to China.[9] TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, and the EU is greatly concerned that users’ sensitive information could end up being accessed by the wrong parties.[10] Beijing has a law which compels companies to turn over any personal data relevant to China’s national security, thus policymakers are worried that this information could ends up in the hands of the Chinese government.[11]

Across the pond, the United States has ramped up its efforts to regulate social media, amid growing concerns about its impact on mental health, which have been rising in recent years. Both federal and state regulators have begun to attack privacy as well as mental health concerns surrounding social media sites. Some states have adopted privacy legislation to crack down on these issues.[12]

Instead, Congress has elected to address the growing concerns surrounding social media usage and mental health.[13] Congressman Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin compared TikTok to “digital fentanyl” when arguing that the app should be banned nationally.[14] More studies have emerged indicating that high levels of social media usage have a negative impact on an individual’s health.[15] Despite these growing concerns, the federal government has yet to pass any sort of sweeping reform.[16]

While both the European Union and the United States acknowledge that there are clear and pressing issues with regards to social media, Europe is acting as a trailblazer while the US lags behind.[17] Given that the issues are likely to persist for decades if unaddressed, it is imperative that the US acts sooner rather than later.



[3] Id.


[5] Id.

[6] Id.


[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.





[15] Id.

[16] Id.


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