LONDON (Reuters) - Major U.S.-media outlets including the LA Times and Chicago Tribune were forced to shutter their websites in parts of Europe on Friday following the roll out of stringent new privacy regulations by the European Union.

A padlock stands on a displayed European Union flag in this illustration taken May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect on Friday, forcing companies to be more attentive to how they handle customer data with severe penalties for breaching consumers’ privacy rights.

Privacy advocates have hailed the new law as a model for personal data protection in the internet era. But opponents say the new rules are overly burdensome and have warned of costly business disruption.

By mid-morning, European readers trying to access the websites of media outlets owned by the U.S. Tronc publishing group were greeted by a message saying they were “unavailable in most European countries.”

The message did not explicitly name the reason for the problem but included “GDPR” in the redirected web page address.

Tronc, headquartered in Chicago, owns some of America’s biggest newspapers, including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun.

“We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market,” said the error message displayed in response to attempts to access the LA Times website in London and Brussels.

“We continue to identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with our award-winning journalism.”

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Douglas Busvine/Keith Weir

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