The Digital Services Act finally comes into force as the EU leads on the global regulation of Big Tech.
Starting today (25 August), 19 online services and social media companies deemed as “very large” – with more than 45m monthly active users in the EU – under the Digital Services Act (DSA) will face unprecedented legal scrutiny and obligations to make their platforms safer and more transparent.
Companies such as Meta, Google, Amazon and TikTok are designated very large online platforms are legally obliged to ensure they are not “too big to care” about certain responsibilities.
Obligations imposed by the DSA include strict rules on content moderation, advertising transparency and greater choice for users – including minors – to control what they see.
Non-compliance can cost companies, who will be subject to yearly audits, up to 6pc of their group’s global turnover. Repeated violations can even lead to a temporary ban from the EU.
“These new rules will empower consumers by giving them the right to opt out from recommendation systems based on profiling, while online platforms will be obliged to label all ads and inform users on who is promoting them,” said Irish MEP Deirdre Clune.
“[They] will greatly enhance digital transparency and accountability and the DSA is a welcome move towards harmonising standards for online service providers across Europe.”
The DSA was first agreed upon by EU lawmakers after more than 16 hours of negotiations in April last year. What came out of the negotiations was perhaps the world’s most comprehensive regulations to rein in the power of Big Tech and give precedence to consumers.
While all tech companies operating in the EU will have to comply with the new rules, the 19 companies that have been designated as very large by lawmakers will have to start early. Amazon and Germany’s Zalando have challenged their inclusion in this list.
Companies have also been subject to what the EU calls ‘stress tests’ ahead of today’s deadline to ensure they are ready to comply with the new DSA rules.
Weeks ago, TikTok said it will let users turn off personalised content to comply with obligations, while Meta said earlier this week that its family of apps including Facebook, Instagram and Threads (which now has a web version) are getting chronological feeds.
Earlier this year, nonprofit Global Witness claimed that Facebook, TikTok and YouTube had all approved ads inciting violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland, according to Reuters. Today, Amnesty International called on Meta to pay reparations for what it claims was Facebook’s role in the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military in 2017. Head of Big Tech Accountability at Amnesty, Pat de Brún, described this as “one of the most egregious examples of a social media company’s involvement in a human rights crisis”.
“The DSA is a landmark piece of legislation aimed at strengthening rights in the digital age, which could create ripple effects far beyond the EU.
“Members states – particularly Ireland given its strategic location for big tech companies – have a legal responsibility to effectively protect our human rights from the risks posed to our rights by Big Tech,” Amnesty said.
“The first practical test for online service providers and social media companies will be to submit an annual assessment of the major impact of their design, algorithms, advertising and terms of services on a range of societal issues,” Clune added.
“The coming into force of the DSA marks a major milestone in placing stronger safeguards for these online players in terms of risk management, tackling disinformation, transparency and content moderation.”
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