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Home » The EU drops the hammer on Meta with a record fine

The EU drops the hammer on Meta with a record fine

The European Union isn’t messing around. Meta says the EU is making a big mistake.

At the center of it all is a record fine.

On Monday, the EU fined Meta, the owner of Facebook, 1.2 billion euros — nearly $1.3 billion — and ordered it to stop transferring users’ personal information from Europe to the United States. The EU gave Meta an October deadline.

The fine is a record for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, surpassing when it hammered Amazon with an $887 million fine in 2021.

The New York Times’ Adam Satariano wrote, “Regulators said the company failed to comply with a 2020 decision by the European Union’s highest court that Facebook data shipped across the Atlantic was not sufficiently protected from American spy agencies.”

The Associated Press’ Kelvin Chan, who covers technology in Europe, wrote the data includes items such as “names, email and IP addresses, messages, viewing history, geolocation data and other information that Meta — and other tech giants like Google — use for targeted online ads.”

Meta plans to appeal, of course, and put out a statement that said, in part, “The ability for data to be transferred across borders is fundamental to how the global open internet works. From finance and telecommunications to critical public services like healthcare or education, the free flow of data supports many of the services that we have come to rely on. Thousands of businesses and other organizations rely on the ability to transfer data between the EU and the US in order to operate and provide services that people use every day. Without the ability to transfer data across borders, the internet risks being carved up into national and regional silos, restricting the global economy and leaving citizens in different countries unable to access many of the shared services we have come to rely on. That’s why providing a sound legal basis for the transfer of data between the EU and the US has been a political priority on both sides of the Atlantic for many years.”

The Meta statement — signed by Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, and Jennifer Newstead, Meta’s chief legal officer — also said, “This decision is flawed, unjustified and sets a dangerous precedent for the countless other companies transferring data between the EU and US.”

Many agree with Meta’s stance. The Washington Post’s Naomi Nix, Annabelle Timsit and Cat Zakrzewski wrote, “The ruling attracted widespread criticism from industry representatives, who argued that it exacerbates the legal uncertainty facing a wide range of companies who send data across international waters. The practice provides the backbone for everyday functions such as collaborating with colleagues in an international office and fulfilling orders to a global customer base.”

Previously, there was something called the Privacy Shield. That was an agreement that allowed Facebook and other companies to transfer data between the EU and U.S. But that went away in 2020 when Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems won a lawsuit to invalidate the Privacy Shield. The EU and the U.S. are currently working on a deal to replace it. That new pact — called the Data Privacy Framework — could be finalized this summer. Meta is hoping the new deal is in place before the October deadline.

Meta said, “This will mean that if the DPF comes into effect before the implementation deadlines expire, our services can continue as they do today without any disruption or impact on users.”

Facebook, as well as other Meta properties such as WhatsApp and Instagram, will continue to be accessed by European users for now. To be clear, Monday’s ruling only applies to Facebook.

During his recent town hall, former President Donald Trump said a few things about author E. Jean Carroll. The day before that town hall, a Manhattan jury found Trump liable for sexually assaulting Carroll in the mid-1990s, as well as defaming her. She was awarded $5 million.

Trump was asked about it during the town hall. Perhaps he should’ve kept his mouth shut. Because Carroll is now seeking additional punitive damages — a “very substantial” amount according to the legal request — in a letter to the judge in the case.

Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, wrote in the revised complaint that “Trump, undeterred by the jury’s verdict, persisted in maliciously defaming Carroll yet again” during the town hall. Kaplan added, “Those statements resulted in enthusiastic cheers and applause from the audience on live TV.”

During the town hall, Trump called Carroll a “wack job” and said the trial was “rigged.” He said, “I have no idea who this woman — this is a fake story, made up story.” He also drew laughter from the crowd when talking about Carroll’s husband and the name of Carroll’s cat.

Kaplan told The New York Times’ Benjamin Weiser, “It makes a mockery of the jury verdict and our justice system if he can just keep on repeating the same defamatory statements over and over again.”

Trump’s legal team is appealing the original jury decision.

My former Poynter colleague Al Tompkins filed this item for today’s newsletter …

At 5 p.m. Monday, the hedge fund Standard General lost its 15-month battle to purchase Tegna, one of the largest owners of local television stations in America, in a takeover attempt worth $5.4 billion plus the assumption of debt, which would have brought the total value of the sale to around $8.6 billion.

More than a year ago, Standard General offered $24 a share for Tegna stock. Interest rates were lower then and Standard General hoped it could close the deal quickly enough to cash in on the 2022 midterm election cycle, which would have generated significant political advertising income for the new owner. The agreement followed months of acrimony and sometimes openly personal hostility between the companies.

A number of ingredients soured the sale. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House when Standard General made its offer, worried aloud among others that such a large owner could push cable companies to pay unreasonably high fees to carry station signals, which would raise cable bills for consumers. Other groups pointed to statements that Standard General founding partner Soo Kim made about Tegna during less friendly negotiations that suggested Tegna had more employees than other affiliate stations, leading Standard General to try to assure the Federal Communications Commission that it had no current plans to cut staff.

The clearest signal that the deal would collapse came in February when the FCC’s Media Bureau decided it should hold hearings on the sale of Tegna’s 64 TV stations in 51 markets. Such lengthy hearings usually spell doom for takeovers because market conditions — in this case, interest rates — change the financial viability of a mega deal. Standard General sued the FCC over the decision, but the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the suit.

Tegna’s stock value tanked after the February delay and is now trading for less than $16 a share. Tegna announced Monday evening that it will launch “a $300 million accelerated share repurchase (‘ASR’) program and a 20 percent increase in its quarterly dividend.”

Tegna president CEO Dave Lougee and chairman Howard Elias sent a message to employees that said:

We know this has been a long process, and we want to explain what terminating the merger agreement means. TEGNA will remain an independent company with our shares trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and both of us will continue to serve in our current roles. TEGNA’s dedication to providing high-quality journalism, serving the communities where we operate, and delivering value for all stakeholders remains as important as ever.

We are incredibly proud of your professionalism throughout this process. TEGNA’s people are the key to our continued success, and thanks to your hard work, we have strong momentum after achieving record performance in key metrics in 2022. Equally important, we’ve remained true to our purpose of serving the greater good of our local communities by providing trusted and valued local journalism and marketing solutions to our clients.

As we look toward the future of our Company, your diligent efforts and the positive culture we’ve built together have made TEGNA one of the best positioned local broadcast companies in the industry. We are leaders in operational excellence and are in a very strong financial position. We will continue to foster a strong, supportive, and engaged team at TEGNA that is built on inclusivity, authenticity, hard work and a shared sense of purpose.

Sensational work by The New York Times on Monday as it had drone footage of the devastation in Bakhmut, Ukraine. The drone footage —  showing buildings badly burned and in various stages of rubble and craters littering the ground that used to be beautiful green space — was taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Tyler Hicks. The text was from Marc Santora, who opened with this chilling line:

“Bakhmut is obliterated.”

The drone footage was shot last Friday. The video and still photos are mesmerizing and yet horrific. Russians are claiming victory there, while Ukraine insists this is, by no means, a sign Ukraine is losing its battle to drive Russia out of its country.

Santora wrote, “The notion of a ‘winner,’ however, defies what is so clearly lost — the many lives and homes in the once peaceful city, known for its salt-mines and sparkling wine, largely reduced to ashes. A few remaining civilians moved anxiously trying to find a safe path as the Russians fought in the neighborhood where the people were taking shelter. It was not immediately possible to know who the people are, where they are going and how they survived.”

The story and photos were depressing to see, but it was superb and important journalism.

I’m really liking the new bylines/datelines The New York Times has introduced to some of its online stories starting last week. On some stories, the Times is doing away with traditional datelines that say, for example, “WASHINGTON” or “LONDON” or wherever the story is taking place.

Instead, the new version is more descriptive. For example, in the drone footage story I just mentioned from Ukraine, this is what it looks like:

  • Photographs and Video by Tyler Hicks 
  • Text by Marc Santora
  • Tyler Hicks shot this drone footage while embedded with the 93rd Mechanized Brigade of Ukraine outside Bakhmut. Marc Santora reported from near the city in May.

Some are less descriptive, but say more than just the city or town where the story was written. In a story about South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott announcing his presidential campaign for the Republican Party, the Times story said, “Jonathan Weisman reported from North Charleston, S.C., and Maya King from Atlanta.”

This lets readers know exactly where the reporters were.

That often might seem self-explanatory, but take this story in Monday’s Times: “A Breakthrough Deal to Keep the Colorado River From Going Dry, for Now.”

So where might you guess that story was reported from? If you said Colorado, you’re wrong. The Times said, “By Christopher Flavelle — Reporting from Washington.”

This kind of information now makes it crystal clear to the reader where the reporters were when they reported on and wrote their stories. Such transparency is always good.

Rick Hummel receives the J.G. Taylor Spink Award during the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 2007. (AP Photo/Tim Roske, File)

Sad news from the baseball world. Rick Hummel, who covered the St. Louis Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for five decades, died Saturday after what the paper called a “short, aggressive illness.” He was 77.

Affectionately known as “The Commish,” Hummel was as well-known, well-respected and well-liked as any baseball writer in the country. The Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold wrote, “Hummel’s career included 42 consecutive All-Star Games, and as the Post-Dispatch’s lead baseball writer or national baseball columnist, he chronicled the Cardinals’ three most recent World Series championships, six MVP seasons, 11 managers and seven National League pennants. No one knew more about the Cardinals because no one else wrote as much about the Cardinals, and no one was more generous and willing to share all he knew.”

Sharing all he knew is something I can attest to. As a college student, I helped cover the Cardinals in spring training back in the 1980s for the then-St. Petersburg Times. The Cardinals trained in St. Pete at that time. Hummel knew everyone and everything about the Cardinals, and even though I was there to just write a few daily notes, Hummel took the time to help this college kid get through spring training without embarrassing himself.

It was a pleasure to know Hummel for the next four decades. And even though we might go years without seeing one another, he would act like one of your closest friends whenever you crossed paths.

Goold, who was close with Hummel, wrote a superb remembrance of Hummel, so take the time to read it.

An extra-long Hot Type today with must-read (or listen) stories …

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