A new EU law comes into force today aimed at strengthening online regulation of widely used platforms and services run by US Big Tech to protect online privacy, protecting freedom of speech and creating a level playing field for digital business. Among its demands, the biggest platforms, such as Facebook and Google, will have until February 17 of next year to disclose the number of their users.
The Digital Services Act (DSA) was designed to combat online hate speech, disinformation and piracy in Europe at a time when US companies control much of the internet content seen by EU citizens. Under the new law, all social media platforms, online marketplaces and search engines operating in the EU will be required to respond more quickly to remove content deemed to be in breach of EU rules.
A set of legislative measures against which the world’s largest technology companies lobbied fiercelyrepresents the most significant change to the laws governing Big Tech in continental Europe, which is mostly based in the US, in more than two decades. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager has been a key architect of the bloc’s digital reforms, and she believes the Digital Services Act is “better than the proposal we put forward” back in 2020. She also announced in a tweet that “democracy is coming back.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the agreement “historic.”
DSA rules will be fully implemented from February 17, 2024, but officials will need time in the interim to decide which tech giants are big enough to require close scrutiny. This will include measures to limit the use of sensitive personal data in targeting ads to European users and insist on greater transparency for the algorithms that suggest content.
But the new rules will take effect earlier for what Brussels calls very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online search engines (VLOSEs) — those with more than 45 million active users in the EU. At current user numbers, the definition would hit about 20 companies, including Meta and its social networks Facebook and Instagram; Google and its YouTube video platform; and the platforms of the iPhone manufacturer Apple.
Microblogging platform Twitter, recently acquired by entrepreneur Elon Musk, will almost certainly also be included, along with Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok, German retailer Zalando and Dutch hotel site Booking. Any site that may be large enough to be subject to the cuts must publish their European user numbers by 17 February 2023, and DSA rules will apply to them once the European Commission confirms the size of their user bases.
This means that for the giants, the DSA rules – which are stricter for major platforms – could come into effect in late 2023, rather than in February 2024, when they will apply to all digital platforms. VLOPs can be fined up to 6% of their global revenue or even banned from the huge EU market in case of serious, persistent breaches of the rules.
The DSA complements another new EU law, the Digital Markets Act, or DMA, which bans anti-competitive behavior by so-called internet “gatekeepers” and came into force in November.
The EU data law follows a landmark settlement in the US
The EU law came into effect days after the most prominent VLOSE company, Google, agreed to settle a landmark privacy case with 40 US states over allegations that the search engine giant misled users into believing location tracking was turned off on their devices. devices
The statement says it’s the largest multi-state privacy settlement in US history set by a government agency and includes a binding commitment to improve Google’s disclosures. “Digital platforms like Google cannot claim to provide privacy controls to users and then ignore those controls to collect and sell data to advertisers against users’ express wishes — and at great profit,” said New Jersey’s attorney general. Matthew Platkin in a statement.
The rare joint lawsuit by 40 states grew out of impatience over the federal government’s failure to crack down on big tech amid legislative gridlock in Washington. Republican and Democratic lawmakers disagree over what national internet privacy rules should look like, and tech companies are lobbying fiercely to limit their potential influence.
US tech giants have faced tougher regulations in Europe since 2018, with Google, Amazon and others hit with hefty fines for privacy breaches. The US case began after an article in 2018 from Associated Press reports that Google tracked users even after they opted out of the practice.
Other states involved included Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Specifically, in their case, it was shown that users continued to be tracked even after they turned off the location history option on their phones, as the tracking continued through a separate Web and App Activity setting.
Google said in a statement that the allegations are based on product features that are no longer relevant. “In line with the improvements we’ve made over the years, we’ve closed this investigation, which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” the company said.
According to the settlement, Google will provide more detailed information about activity tracking in the future.
With a message © Agence France-Presse