EU aims to stop damage on social media with historic new law | technology

Adam Satariano, a New York-based Europe-based reporter, expects that the European Digital Services Act will force Meta, Google and others to combat misinformation and restrict some online advertising.

In a report, Satariano explains that the European Union reached an agreement on Saturday on landmark legislation that will force Facebook, YouTube and other internet services to combat misinformation, reveal how their services strengthen distributive content and stop advertising via the internet to target is based on a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation.

He said the law aims to address the social damage of social media by requiring companies to more aggressively monitor their platforms for illegal content or to risk billions of dollars in fines.

Technical companies will have to put in place new policies and procedures to remove reported hate speech, terrorist propaganda and other material that is considered illegal by countries within the European Union.

The purpose of the law

The law also aims to end an era of self-regulation in which technology companies set their own policies on what content can be left open or removed. It is distinguished from other regulatory efforts by online voice processing, a largely out-of-bounds area in the United States due to protection from the first amendment.

The report indicated that Google, which owns YouTube, and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, would face annual audits for “systemic risks” associated with their businesses, while Amazon would face new rules. stop selling illegal products.

The Digital Services Act is part of a two-way battle for technology giants across the European Union to address the social and economic impact of these companies’ social media services.

Last month, the 27-nation European bloc passed another general law called the Digital Markets Act to counter what regulators see as anti-competitive behavior by major technology companies, including curbing their grip on application stores, advertising and online shopping .

These new laws, says Satariano, illustrate how Europe sets the standard for technological regulation worldwide.

Google and Meta will face annual audits of “systemic risks” associated with their businesses (Reuters)

European officials, frustrated with anti-competitive behavior, the impact of social media on elections and privacy-intrusive business models, have spent more than a year negotiating policies that give them new powers around the trillion-dollar technology giants that billions of people use for communication, entertainment, payments and news.

“It will be a model,” Alexandra Geis, a Green Party member of the European Parliament of Germany, said of the new law, adding that she had already spoken to lawmakers in Japan, India and other countries about the legislation. .

Are we getting to the point?

“Platforms need to be transparent about content moderation decisions, prevent the spread of dangerous misinformation, and avoid displaying unsafe products,” said Margaretha Vestager, who led much of the bloc’s work to regulate the technology industry as executive vice president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive. poor, was quoted as saying. in the markets “.

The author said that these movements contrast with the lack of movement in the United States. Although U.S. regulators have filed antitrust lawsuits against Google and Meta, no comprehensive federal laws have been passed addressing the power of technology companies.

How effective is the law?

But even as European authorities gain new legal powers to curb the technology giants, critics have questioned their effectiveness; Writing laws can be easier than enforcing them.

And while the European Union has a reputation as the world’s most powerful regulator of the technology industry, its actions have at times seemed tougher than in practice.

It is estimated that 230 new workers will be hired to implement the new laws, a number that critics say is insufficient compared to the resources available to Meta, Google and others.

“They have not shown that they can use the powerful tools that already exist to keep the big technology companies in check,” said Johnny Ryan, a privacy rights activist and senior fellow at the Irish Civil Liberties Council.

Even as European authorities gain new legal powers to curb technology giants, critics have questioned their effectiveness (Shutterstock)

Technical companies warn

Technology companies and industrial trade groups have warned that the laws could have unintended consequences, such as hurting small businesses and undermining Europe’s digital economy.

Google said in a statement that it supports the objectives of the Digital Services Act, but “the details will be important,” and that it plans to work with policymakers “to get the remaining technical details right.” Twitter said its “top priority” is to keep people safe online “and that it still needs to review details of the legislation. Amazon and Meta declined to comment, and TikTok did not respond to requests for comment.

The final text of the Digital Services Act is not expected to be available for a few weeks, and the final vote is yet to take place, a process that is not expected to lead to any major changes to the agreement, but policymakers at the European Commission and the European Parliament involved in the negotiations described in detail what can This is one of the most pervasive parts of digital politics in the world.

The report explained that this law, which will come into force by next year, does not command online platforms to remove certain forms of speech, leaving it to individual countries to determine. For example, some forms of hate speech and references to Nazism are illegal in Germany, but not in Germany. In other European countries, the law forces companies to add ways for users to report illegal content.

Many of the statements related to social media closely follow recommendations made by Frances Hogan, a former Facebook employee who became a whistleblower. The law requires companies to provide a way for users to turn off recommendation algorithms that use their personal data to personalize content.

Meta, TikTok and other companies will also need to share more data on how their platforms work, with outside researchers at universities and civil society groups. Firms are required to prepare an annual risk assessment report, which is reviewed by an external auditor, and to announce a summary of the results.

Policymakers said reputational damage could be stronger than fines, but if the European Commission decides Meta or another company is not doing enough to address the issues identified by the auditors, the company could face financial penalties of up to 6% of global revenue and is required. to change business practices.

New restrictions on targeted advertising can have significant impacts on Internet-based businesses, and rules will restrict data use based on race, religion, political opinion or union membership, and businesses will not be able to target children with advertising.

Online retailers like Amazon will face new requirements to prevent illegal products from being sold by sellers on their platforms, leaving companies open to consumer lawsuits.

Europe’s position as a regulatory leader will depend on the application of new laws that are likely to face legal challenges from the biggest companies, said Augustin Reina, director of legal and economic affairs at the European Consumer Watch (Consumer Watch). He added that effective application is absolutely the key to the success of these new rules.

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