Tuesday, the European Union (EU) shortlisted 19 tech giants that will have to comply with a set of new content regulation obligations by the firm deadline of Aug. 25 or face fines or worse, a temporary ban.
The rules, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), came into force late last year, requiring companies to reduce harms online, introduce protections for users’ rights and impose new transparency and accountability requirements on digital platforms.
“Four months from today’s designation, they will not be able to act as if they were ‘too big to care’,” wrote Thierry Breton, EU commissioner, in a LinkedIn post.
The 19 services subject to the new online content rules include Alphabet’s Google Maps, Google Play, Google Search, Google Shopping and YouTube, Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Amazon’s Marketplace, Apple’s App Store and Microsoft’s LinkedIn and Bing, as well as booking.com, Pinterest, Snap Inc’s Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, Wikipedia, Zalando and Alibaba’s AliExpress.
The rules are meant to target platforms that have more than 45 million monthly active users in the EU.
“We consider that these 19 online platforms and search engines have become systemically relevant and have special responsibilities to make the Internet a safe and trustworthy space,” said Breton.
The new rules include:
- Address the risks to users’ physical and mental health and public well-being that very large platforms or search engines can cause.
- Give users plain-language summaries of terms and conditions, and the choice to opt-out from recommendation systems based on profiling
- The ban of advertising based on sensitive data, such as racial or ethnic origins or political opinions
- Risk mitigation for use of generative AI such as ChatGPT or Midjourney
- Redesign their systems to better protect minors, with age verification and parental controls
- Tackle disinformation, curb the spread of illegal information and protect freedom of speech. Facebook is high on the EU’s radar for allegedly “playing an important role in the opinion building in Slovakia, where elections will happen soon”
- Identify advertisements clearly, explain how the recommender works and what data is collected
If found non-compliant, the companies would face sanctions of up to six per cent of their global turnover, or, as a last resort, a temporary ban from the EU.
Further, the designated 19 companies will have to face yearly independent audits, which, Breton said, the companies “should expect to be very tough.”
Additionally, the companies are invited to do “stress tests,” which are voluntary mock exercises to check their compliance readiness ahead of the deadline. Breton and his team will carry out a “stress test” at the end of June at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco.
In November last year, shortly after Elon Musk’s takeover, Breton said that Twitter still had “huge work ahead” as it needed to “significantly reinforce content moderation and tackle disinformation.”
Two months and host of policies later, Musk affirmed in a tweet that the principles of “transparency, accountability and accuracy of information” of the DSA is aligned with Twitter’s.
TikTok, which recently also faced the heat from regulators worldwide over privacy concerns and harmful content targeted to children, expressed interest in performing its “stress test”.
Breton invited other companies to also do their “stress tests” and be “ready for take off” on Aug. 25.
The countdown, Breton said, has started.