European residents can no longer access content on the China Global Television Network (CGTN) app because of the European Union’s recently tightened data regulations.
On Tuesday, a source from France informed Sixth Tone that they were unable to download the CGTN application from the iTunes App Store, while a Twitter user posted that he was unable to access the CGTN app for Android.
When Sixth Tone accessed the app from a European IP address, the following notification popped up: “CGTN’s digital content is temporarily unavailable in certain EU countries. Our TV channels are broadcasting as usual. The pause in service is not due to technical errors. We are sorting out the details to continue providing news about China and the world.”
Marcus Ryder, Chief International Editor of CGTN Digital, couldn’t confirm to Sixth Tone whether the issue was related to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “I'm aware of the EU issues,” Ryder said. “I have spoken to my superiors about this and to my understanding the problem is being resolved.”
But a CGTN employee who wished to remain anonymous confirmed that the outage is indeed due to the GDPR.
The new regulation came into effect on May 25, and is hailed as the world’s strongest set of data protection rules to date. The GDPR demands compliance from any company operating in the EU.
“Its impact is so strong that even we at CGTN, a media organization based in China, have to take actions, because we target a global audience, including EU citizens,” CGTN tech reporter Gong Zhe wrote in May.
Despite extensive preparation since the regulation was announced in 2016, even tech giants Facebook and Google were hit with lawsuits seeking fines of $8.8 billion on the first day of enforcement.
The GDPR guarantees EU citizens certain cybersecurity rights, including the right to be forgotten, the right to erasure, and the right to access. Failure to comply or breaches in standards result in content bans or heavy penalties: Companies can be fined up to $23 million or 4 percent of their annual global revenue — whichever is higher.
Media outlets based in the U.S. have already faced content bans due to the regulation. The Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune were blocked in the region in May; their websites showed EU residents a similar message to that displayed by the CGTN app.
Meanwhile, the Chinese broadcaster has plans to expand its operations in Europe with a CGTN branch based in Chiswick, London. But with the U.K. set to leave the European Union in March 2019, it is unclear whether the network’s plans will be affected by European data regulations.