Europe agrees to sweeping new rules for tech platforms

The proposed law, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), marks the second phase of landmark technology legislation to be passed across Europe within a month. It aims to introduce new rules on how the tech industry handles misinformation and illegal content on social media, as well as illegal goods and services in online marketplaces. The largest companies that break the law can be fined billions of dollars.

“Today’s agreement, which supplements the political agreement on the Digital Markets Act adopted last month, sends a strong message to all Europeans, all EU businesses and our international partners,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

The bill marks a potential turning point in technical regulation. This gives officials more tools to crack down on hate speech, prosecute e-commerce merchants who promote illegal goods, and scrutinize tech platforms’ recommendation algorithms, among other things. This applies not only to social networking sites, but also to app stores, gig economy platforms, and even cloud services and ISPs.

The broad legislation also provides additional requirements for so-called “very large online platforms” with at least 45 million users from the EU. For these companies, the law requires content moderation risk assessments and independent reviews related to their handling of illegal material, as well as content that may be legal but still threatens public health, human rights, or other public interest priorities.

Together with the Digital Markets Act, a competition-focused bill designed to make dominant online platforms more open, the DSA highlights how aggressively Europe is moving towards developing proactive rules for big technologies, ahead of US lawmakers who have been moving relatively slowly.

Saturday’s agreement reflects this week’s many hours of talks between the European Commission, EU member states and the European Parliament to agree on different versions of the legislation. Although the agreement reached on Saturday has yet to be finalized and formally adopted, it could take effect within a few months.

With Europe poised to be a trailblazer in this space, advocates of stricter technology regulation have suggested that EU rules could end up benefiting consumers around the world, with either tech companies globally adjusting their operations for the sake of simplicity, or legislators taking inspiration from European rules. politicians.

The DSA can serve as a “global gold standard” for other politicians, Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen told European lawmakers last year. On Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed the DSA and urged European officials to finalize the bill as soon as possible, suggesting it could “strengthen global democracy.”

Meanwhile, the technology industry has been actively lobbying for the measure, in some cases warning about the risks that prescriptive requirements can pose to innovation.

The DSA agreement was struck on Saturday after former President Barack Obama called on tech platforms to step up the fight against disinformation on their platforms, criticizing companies’ opaque algorithms and what he called financial incentives to encourage the recommendation of extreme or inflammatory content on platforms.

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