The European Union close to an agreement to secure the internet

After a first part passed at the end of March, the European Union is looking at the Digital Services Act, to better regulate the tech giants. An agreement could be reached on Friday.

How to act online against “revenge porn”, disinformation, hate speech or the sale of dangerous products? The EU could reach an agreement on Friday on legislation to secure the internet by making digital platforms accountable.

“We are going to reach an agreement”, the European Parliament and Member States, who have been negotiating with the Commission since January, are “highly motivated to conclude on Friday” the Digital Services Act (“DSA”) , provides a European source.

The text is one of two parts of a major plan presented in December 2020 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and her Internal Market counterpart Thierry Breton to better regulate the tech giants.

The first part, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which targets anti-competitive practices, was finalized at the end of March.

End Lawless Zones

The DSA is updating the e-commerce directive, which was born 20 years ago when giant platforms such as Amazon or Facebook (Metagroup) were still in their infancy. Goal: to end lawlessness and abuse on the internet.

“What is illegal offline must also be illegal online,” summarizes Thierry Breton.

The excesses of social networks have often made headlines. Murder of history professor Samuel Paty in France, following a hate campaign in October 2020, protesters attack on the capital in the United States in January 2021, partly planned thanks to Facebook and Twitter, disinformation campaigns during the Brexit referendum…

The dark side of the internet also includes sales platforms that are inundated with counterfeit or defective products, which can be dangerous, such as children’s toys that do not meet safety standards.

The new regulation will force social networks to suspend users who “frequently” post illegal content, as defined by national and European laws. It requires online sales sites to verify the identities of their suppliers before offering their products.

Deterrent fines

At the heart of the project are new obligations imposed on “very large platforms”, those with “more than 45 million active users” in the EU, i.e. about twenty companies, the list of which has yet to be determined, but which Gafam ( (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), as well as Twitter, and probably TikTok, Zalando or Booking.

These players must assess themselves the risks associated with the use of their services and use appropriate means to remove illegal content. they will be imposed more transparency on their data and their recommendation algorithms.

They are audited once a year by independent bodies and placed under the supervision of the European Commission. It can fine them up to 5% of their daily turnover to force them to react quickly, or fines up to 6% of their annual turnover in case of repeated violations.

In particular, the DSA should demand the removal of images used for “revenge porn” and prohibit the use of data about religion or political opinions for targeted advertising purposes.

US whistleblower Frances Haugen, who denounced Facebook’s inaction in the face of its social networks’ nuisance to keep its profits, had in November touted the “huge potential” of the European regulatory project, which called a “reference” could be for other countries, including the United States.

However, the Federation of European Consumers’ Associations (BEUC) fears that the text does not go far enough. She wants a ban on all advertisements based on the monitoring of internet users. It asks to ban “trick” interfaces (“dark pattern”) that, for example, are intended to entice users to purchase certain services or accept certain settings, such as files that record their browsing data.

It considers it essential that online sellers are obliged to carry out random checks on the products of their suppliers. “The proposal contains many very good innovations. But if we don’t eventually force the marketplaces to control what they sell, that could be a missed opportunity,” says Claudio Teixeira, BEUC lawyer.

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