Better fight against calls to murder, pedophile images, disinformation campaigns or counterfeit products… The EU passed new “historic” legislation on Saturday to bring order to the Far West of the internet.
The text, which has been talked about for almost a year and a half, is intended to make the very large digital platforms, such as Facebook (Meta) or Amazon, accountable by forcing them to remove illegal content and to cooperate with the authorities.
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“This agreement is historic,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed on Twitter, “our new rules will protect users online, safeguard freedom of expression and business opportunities.”
The Digital Services Act (DSA) 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.
Yes, we have a deal!
With the #DSAthere will be an end to the time when large online platforms behave as if they are “too big to care”.
An important milestone for citizens.
Congratulations to the European Parliament and the Council and thanks to the great EU team who have worked countless hours! pic.twitter.com/jmCoZMQ3lO
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) Apr 23, 2022
The first part, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which addresses anticompetitive practices, was completed at the end of March.
The DSA is updating the e-commerce directive, which was born 20 years ago when the giant platforms were still in their infancy. Goal: to end lawlessness and abuse on the internet.
The terrible example of Samuel Paty
The excesses of social networks have often made headlines. Murder of history professor Samuel Paty in France, after an October 2020 hate campaign, attack on protesters on the United States Capitol in January 2021, planned in part thanks to Facebook and Twitter…
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 establishes the obligation to remove illegal content (according to national and European law) “immediately” as soon as a platform becomes aware of it. It forces social networks to suspend users who “often” break the law.
The DSA requires online sales sites to verify the identity of their suppliers before offering their products.
It prohibits deceptive interfaces (“dark pattern”) that push Internet users to certain account settings or certain paid services.
“Before it’s too late”
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 maybe TikTok or Booking.
These players must assess themselves the risks associated with using their services and deploy appropriate means to remove problematic content. They are being imposed more transparency on their data and recommendation algorithms.
They are audited once a year by independent bodies and placed under the supervision of the European Commission, which can impose fines of up to 6% of their annual turnover for repeated violations.
In particular, the DSA prohibits the use of political opinion data for targeted advertising.
This text “is a world first in digital regulation”, underlined the Council of the EU, which represents the 27 member states, in a press release. It “establishes the principle that what is illegal offline must also be illegal online”.
Responsibility is absolutely necessary
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the EU on Thursday evening to pass this new legislation to “support global democracy before it’s too late”. “For too long, technology platforms have been amplifying disinformation and extremism without being accountable,” she said.
US whistleblower Frances Haugen, who denounced Facebook’s passivity in the face of the nuisance of its social networks, had in November touted the “huge potential” of the DSA, which could become a “benchmark” for other countries. , including the United States.
In the context of the war in Ukraine and the disinformation campaigns it promotes, lawmakers have added “a crisis response mechanism”, the European Council said. It will be activated by a Commission decision and will allow “proportionate and effective” measures to be taken against very large platforms that would contribute to the spread of fake news.