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European agreement to tame the “Wild West” of the Internet

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‘MAJOR STEP’:
The Digital Services Act would end the era of big online platforms acting as if they were “too big to care”, said a European official.

The EU finalized new legislation early yesterday requiring big tech to remove harmful content, the bloc’s latest move aimed at curbing global online giants.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) – the second part of a sweeping blueprint to regulate tech companies – aims to ensure tougher consequences for platforms and websites that host a long list of prohibited content ranging from speech to hate misinformation and child sexual abuse images.

EU officials and parliamentarians finally reached an agreement during talks in Brussels on the legislation, which has been in the works since 2020.

Photo: AP

“Yes, we have an agreement!” EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton wrote on Twitter.

“With the DSA, the days of big online platforms behaving as if they were ‘too big to care’ are coming to an end. A major milestone for EU citizens,” said Breton, who has previously described the Internet as the “Wild West”.

“Today’s DSA agreement is historic,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. “Our new rules will protect users online, guarantee freedom of expression and opportunities for businesses. What is illegal offline will be illegal online in the EU.

The settlement is the companion to the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which targeted anti-competitive practices among tech giants such as Google and Facebook, and was reached last month.

The legislation had faced lobbying from tech companies and intense debate over the scope of free speech.

Tech giants have been repeatedly called out for failing to monitor their platforms – a New Zealand terror attack livestreamed on Facebook in 2019 sparked global outrage, and the chaotic insurgency in the US last year was promoted online.

The regulation would require platforms to quickly remove illegal content as soon as they become aware of it. Social networks should suspend users who frequently break the law.

The DSA would require e-commerce sites to verify the identity of suppliers before offering their products.

While many of the DSA’s stipulations cover all businesses, it sets out particular obligations for “very large platforms”, defined as those with more than 45 million active users in the EU.

The list of companies has yet to be released, but would include giants such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, as well as Twitter and likely TikTok, Zalando and Booking.com.

These actors would be required to assess the risks associated with the use of their services and to remove illegal content.

They would also be required to be more transparent about their data and algorithms.

The European Commission would also oversee annual audits and could impose fines of up to 6% of their annual sales.

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