Future Tense

The LA Times Isn’t Letting Europeans Read Its Site Thanks to the EU’s New Internet Rules

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: The Los Angeles Times building is seen on February 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Parent company, Tronc, is believed to be close to selling The Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune to billionaire Los Angeles doctor, Patrick Soon-Shiong, for about $500 million.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
The LA Times is a great newspaper. Hopefully EU readers will get to see it online again soon. David McNew/Getty Images

Companies that run websites have been dreading this Friday for months: It’s the day Europe’s robust and sweeping new privacy protections go into effect. That’s why, leading up to Friday, websites across the internet have been franticly sending out emails and making critical updates to their privacy policies to comply with the new rules.

While most websites appear to have tweaked their data-collection policies and are updating their users about the changes in order to continue operating in Europe, some appear to be throwing in the towel completely—among them one of the biggest newspapers in the United States, the Los Angeles Times.

The U.K.-based technology news website the Register pointed out that the LA Times was no longer available throughout Europe on Twitter on Thursday evening. “We are currently not available in your region, but we are actively exploring options to make our content available to you again,” read a landing page for European readers, captured in a screenshot. The Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson newspaper that also went dark for European readers, put it more plainly: “We recogise [sic] that you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area, including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation and therefore cannot grant you access at this time,” read a posting on the Daily Star’s landing page for EU readers that the Register shared.

Under the new European rules, websites that collect and store user data will have to bow to requests from users in the European Union to reveal what’s collected on them or delete data that the company holds on users. The new law also allows for internet users in EU countries to object to how their data is used and request that certain practices be stopped. If a company mishandles user data that it holds, like in the event of a data breach, the business has 72 hours to alert EU users who were affected. And importantly, if a website doesn’t comply with the new rules, it could be hit with serious fines.

The new EU privacy rules have sent websites across the internet scrambling to restructure how they hold, collect, and will be able delete user data, and while most major sites seem to have been able to change their policies or at least alert users of policies to obtain consent in order to continue doing business and stay within the bounds of the law, clearly that hasn’t been the case for everyone—cash-strapped newspapers included. It’s not just newspapers feeling the strain. The online reputation score service Klout announced earlier this month that it would shut down on the same day the GDPR rules went into effect.

All those privacy-policy emails you’ve received in recent weeks are a sign that when some users of the web get new rights, users everywhere notice. The internet is supposed to be borderless, so until some sites can catch up, it looks like their solution to the new rules is to just close some of the doors to their shop for a while.

Update, May 25: A Los Angeles Times spokeswoman responded with a statement from Tronc, the newspaper’s parent company:

Unfortunately, our website is currently unavailable in most European countries. We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market. We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.

The spokeswoman confirmed that Tronc’s other papers—which include the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, and the New York Daily News—are also unavailable to European readers for now.