Large online platforms, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, will have to do more to tackle illegal content, otherwise they will face billions in fines under the new European Union regulatory regime approved on Saturday.
Extensive Digital Services Act (DSA) fines a company for up to 6% of its worldwide turnover – which for a Facebook owner would be $ 7 billion (£ 5.9 billion), while repeated violations could lead to a technology company being banned do business in the EU.
The new rules, which will come into force in 2024, include:
Prohibition of advertising aimed at children or based on sensitive data such as religion, gender, race and political opinions.
Allowing EU governments to demand the removal of illegal content, including material that promotes terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech and commercial fraud.
Forcing social media platforms to allow users to flag illegal content in an “easy and effective way” so that it can be removed quickly.
Online marketplaces like Amazon will need similar systems for suspicious products, such as counterfeit sneakers or dangerous toys.
The DSA was developed against a background of policy and regulatory action against online platforms around the world. The United Kingdom is introducing an online security law that requires technology companies to protect users from harmful content, while in the United States, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook.
The agreement was reached on Saturday morning after more than 16 hours of talks between EU member states, the EU executive and EU MEPs. The DSA is the second item on EU Antitrust Chief Margret Vestager’s plan to control US technology giants.
Last month, it received support from a bloc of 27 countries and the EU parliament for groundbreaking rules called the Digital Markets Act, which could force Google, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft to change their key business practices in Europe.
“We have a DSA agreement: The Digital Services Act will ensure that what is illegal offline is also considered illegal online – not as a slogan, as a reality,” Vestager said in a tweet.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “With the DSA, the era of big online platforms is coming to an end, which seems too big to be interested.”
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Further action in the DSA will require major online platforms and online search engines to take concrete action during the crisis. They were triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and related misinformation.
Companies could be forced to pass data related to their algorithms to regulators and researchers. Companies also face an annual fee of up to 0.05% of global annual revenue to cover compliance costs.
Flora Rebello Arduini, CEO of SumOfUs, which fights for corporate responsibility, said: “This law is a huge victory for people across Europe who have stood up and demanded an end to the era of major technology misuse. It also sends a strong signal to leaders around the world – citizens will not sit while unregulated and unrestricted technology corporations will destroy their communities. “
Google said in a statement: “How the law is finalized and implemented will depend on the details. We look forward to working with policy makers to provide the remaining technical details correctly to ensure that the law works for everyone. “