Regulatory Crackdown: How Italy Fined X Over $1 Million for Its Gambling Ads

X, formerly known as Twitter, has joined the list of social media platforms facing fines in Italy for violating the national gambling advertising ban.


Italy’s Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (Agcom) has imposed a fine of €1.35 million on X’s owner, Twitter International Unlimited Company. X was found to have breached the 2019 “dignity decree,” which prohibits any form of promotional content related to gaming or betting.

It’s not the first time a social network has been sanctioned – Meta was recently fined just over €5.5 million for a similar offence – but it is significant in that it was the first time X has been brought to rights.

Why X fell foul of Italy’s decree

When Italy announced its “dignity decree” five years ago, it was the one of the first acts taken by Giuseppe Conte’s new coalition government. 

Within it, the authorities sought to control problem gambling, which had been on the rise across Italy during the 2010s. It immediately banned gambling promotion and sponsorships provided by betting companies as of the first day of 2019. All types of advertising for games that offered cash winnings, which excludes free-to-play games like demo slots, were included in this, whether in print or online.

X landed itself in hot water with the Italian authorities due to its failure to prevent gambling advertisements from appearing on its platform. Italian regulator Agcom identified nine specific violations, all from verified X accounts that promoted gambling sites offering cash winnings. The fact that the accounts had a blue checkmark meant that X was held liable for their activity, according to the regulator.

The fine of €1.35 million was seen as sufficient for Agcom officials, but the X’s reputational hit may prove even more costly for them in a country where its popularity was already dipping.

What it means for X in Italy

X has already faced international criticism since Elon Musk took it over in 2022. The billionaire businessman has often posted controversial comments, with some observers saying that he intentionally seeks to provoke people. 

Following this episode, X will likely face increased pressure to proactively monitor and remove gambling advertisements from its platform, especially those from verified accounts. The blue checkmark denotes a level of legitimacy, and Agcom held X accountable for their activity. 

This makes it very likely that the platform will pay its €1.35 million fine.  If it doesn’t, it risks even steeper penalties for ignoring it, especially if there are continued violations of the gambling ad ban. 

These potential consequences serve as a strong incentive for X to tighten its content moderation practices and ensure compliance with Italian regulations. 

Further action against social networks

Agcom’s firm stance against social media platforms isn’t an isolated incident. Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, was hit with a hefty €5.58 million penalty just weeks prior for similar offenses. The company paid its punishment.

In 2022, Google was also fined €700,000, and both Twitch and YouTube have faced sanctions from the regulator for allowing gambling ads to slip through the cracks. 

The consistent enforcement shows that the country is serious about what it sees as a societal menace. It may not be the last time we see a major platform hit with sanctions.

A chilling effect for X in Italy?

The recent fine against X serves as a stark warning to other social media platforms operating in Italy. 

With Agcom actively monitoring and enforcing the gambling advertising ban, companies like Meta (already fined €5.58 million) can expect similar consequences for non-compliance. 

X, with its significant presence in Italy, will likely face increased scrutiny and may need to improve its content moderation efforts to avoid further penalties.

This crackdown reflects a growing global concern about the pervasiveness of gambling advertising, particularly online. Studies have shown a correlation between exposure to such ads and increased risk of problem gambling, a condition that can lead to financial ruin, relationship breakdowns, and even suicide. 

By taking a hard line against gambling advertising, Italy hopes to protect its citizens, especially vulnerable populations, from the dangers of gambling addiction. While X’s future actions in Italy remain to be seen, one thing is certain: the days of unfettered gambling promotion on social media platforms in the country appear to be over.

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