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EU consumer authorities to take on Facebook, Google, Twitter

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Brussels: European consumer protection authorities will ask social media companies Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc and Twitter Inc to amend their terms of service within one month or possibly face fines, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The companies proposed some ways to resolve the issues and discussed them with the authorities on Thursday, the person said, adding that the meeting was constructive. The source was not authorized to speak to the media and requested anonymity. U.S. 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. The authorities sent letters to the companies in December saying that some of service terms broke European Union consumer protection law and that they needed to do more to tackle fraud and scams on their websites. According to the letters seen by Reuters, some of those terms include requiring users to seek redress in court in California, where the companies are based, instead of their country of residence. Other issues include not identifying sponsored content clearly, requiring consumers to waive mandatory rights such as the right to cancel a contract, and an excessive power for the companies to determine the suitability of content generated by users, according to the letters. In the case of Alphabet’s Google unit, the concerns were about its social network Google+. Google and Facebook were not immediately available for comment. A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment. The authorities are being supported by the European Commission and could impose fines if they are not satisfied. The authorities also proposed setting up a standard communication channel to notify the companies of content deemed illegal and the action requested, according to the letters.

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