Big tech companies face tough EU content rules – POLITICO
Big Tech companies will have to meet new EU requirements to tackle illegal content and disinformation on their platforms, after negotiators reached a landmark deal on how Europe governs the internet.
Officials from the European Parliament, the French Presidency of the Council of the EU and the Commission agreed on Saturday morning on new regulations on how internet players moderate and manage content after a marathon 4 p.m. trading on the Digital Services Act (DSA) — powered by snacksfacilitated by comfortable sportswear and punctuated by occasional threats to leave the table.
“The Digital Services Act is a major step,” said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton. “This is the first time in 20 years that Europe has tackled the regulation of digital space and information.”
Danish S&D MEP Christel Schaldemose hailed a “global gold standard” for better online rights for citizens and democratic control over algorithms.
With the Digital Markets Act, the DSA is part of a broader regulatory crackdown on Big Tech, fueled by concerns about the availability of illegal content online. The DSA aims to tackle child sexual abuse images, terrorist content and dangerous products, and will also force online platforms to open the black box of how their algorithms work.
Going forward, regulators will continue efforts by law enforcement tech giants to stop the spread of lies, as information battles have come to the fore during the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. They will ensure that big digital companies have better control over algorithms that may promote extreme and dangerous content.
Fines for non-compliance of up to 6% of global revenue will hit social media giants like Facebook and Instagram as well as porn websites, search engines like Google, podcast streaming platforms like Spotify and online marketplaces like Amazon.
The ultimate threat would be a ban on companies that repeatedly break the rules.
The DSA, which could come into force before the end of the year, will likely affect regulatory efforts beyond Europe. At least two US officials targeted by online lies in recent years support the EU decision. Former US President Barack Obama has called for rules on social media to stop growing political polarization.
On Thursday, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged EU officials must strike a deal on the DSA and “reinforce global democracy before it’s too late”.
“For too long, tech platforms have amplified disinformation and extremism without any accountability. The EU is ready to do something about it,” she wrote on Twitter.
Brussels has decided to ban a widely used but controversial marketing practice that can fuel disinformation and hate campaigns. Targeting people with online ads based on religion, sexual preferences, health information and political beliefs will be banned in the coming year.
Online platforms will be prohibited from delivering personalized commercial messages to children with the aim of enhancing the privacy and security of minors online.
European negotiators limited dark models – manipulative designs that trick people into agreeing to something they don’t actually want.
Platforms will also need to be more accountable to users as well as regulators. Facebook will need to take action and notify users when they report a specific piece of illegal content. Social networks will only be able to suspend and ban users after notifying them. People will be able to challenge a social media platform’s decision and seek financial compensation from digital companies when they fail to comply with the DSA.
Online platforms will face new transparency obligations, such as clearly explaining how algorithms recommend content to users. Companies will have to publish semi-annual reports detailing their moderation efforts, including number of employees, expertise, languages spoken and use of artificial intelligence to remove illegal content. They will be asked to indicate the number of accounts they have suspended and the content items they have removed.
“Google, Facebook and other major online platforms will need to act to better protect their users. Europe has made it clear that it cannot act as independent digital islands,” said Liberal MP Dita Charanzová.
In the meantime, judges and EU agencies will be empowered to order internet actors to remove illegal content — based on national or EU laws — and provide user account information.
In order to combat counterfeit luxury bags, fake drugs and illegal rentals, online marketplaces like Amazon, Airbnb, eBay, AliExpress and Etsy will need to verify that they have information about merchants using their platforms.
The Commission will oversee almost 30 very large technology companies with more than 45 million users in the EU. These companies will have to pay a new annual fee of up to 0.05% of their global revenues to fund Brussels’ new regulatory role.
EU ministers and parliament will have to approve the deal in the coming months. Big Tech companies will then have four months to prepare for the rules, while companies with fewer than 45 million users will have 15 months.
CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this article incorrectly listed monitoring fees and timeline for Big Tech to comply with the rules.