Digital democracy|Digital privacy
⅓ of social media's GDPR fines linked to children
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), an EU privacy regulation, has not only redefined the way organizations handle personal data but has also established a framework for enforcing compliance, including the imposition of fines. This week, we look at the 10 most popular social media platforms by monthly active users¹ and whether they’ve been issued any fines for GDPR violations since the regulation came into effect in 2018². Additionally, we investigate how many of these fines relate to inadequate protection of children's data.
- Out of the top 10 investigated social media platforms, half were fined by European data protection authorities. In total, there have been 13 fines levied on these platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Whatsapp, and X, formerly Twitter), totaling €2.9B. The remaining 5 social media platforms (YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, and LinkedIn) did not receive any fines.
- Meta-owned social media products (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) feature prominently amongst platforms that have received fines under GDPR, adding up to €2.6 billion. TikTok received the third highest amount in fines (€360 million), while X (formerly Twitter) received the lowest and only one fine in late 2020, totaling €450k.
- Notably, a third (4 out of 13) of all fines handed out to social media platforms are related to mishandling children’s data. Three of these were given to TikTok (€360M), and one was received by Instagram (€405M). The fines add up to €765M or more than a quarter of the total amount fined to the social media platforms over the 5 years of GDPR.
Methodology and sources
This study used information provided by the GDPR Enforcement Tracker. We identified the 10 most popular (by active user count1) social media platforms, and checked them for fines on the Tracker. In the case of Meta, both individual platform names and “Meta Platforms, Inc.” were queried. For companies that were found to have received fines, data relating to the date, fine amount, issuing country, and links to relevant legal documents were recorded. The relevant legal documents were looked into to identify whether the fines were related to the handling of children’s data.For the complete research material behind this study, visit here.