Google, Twitter and Facebook face fines of 6 percent of sales for hate speech and disinformation after landmark EU deal


The European Union has reached a landmark agreement to tackle hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content online.

The move would force big tech companies to monitor themselves more tightly, make it easier for users to report problems, and empower regulators to punish non-compliance with billions of dollars in fines.

Finally, in the early hours of Saturday, EU officials finalized agreement in principle on the final details of the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will overhaul the digital rulebook for 27 countries and cement Europe’s reputation as a global leader in curbing power social Media companies and other digital platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The DSA is the end of large online platforms that behave as if they were ‘too big to care’.”

EU Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager added: “With today’s agreement, we ensure that platforms are held accountable for the risks their services can pose to society and citizens”.

The bill is the EU’s third major law targeting the tech industry, a notable contrast to the US, where lobbyists representing Silicon Valley’s interests have largely managed to keep federal lawmakers in check.

While the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have filed extensive antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook, the US Congress remains politically divided over efforts to fight competition, online privacy, disinformation and more.

The EU’s new rules, aimed at protecting internet users and their “fundamental rights online”, should make tech companies more accountable for content created by users and powered by their platforms’ algorithms.

Mr Breton said the EU will have plenty of power to back the legislation.

“It entrusts the Commission with monitoring very large platforms, including the possibility of imposing effective and dissuasive sanctions of up to 6% of global turnover or even a ban on operating in the EU’s internal market for repeated serious violations,” he said.

The preliminary agreement was reached between the EU Parliament and the member states. It still has to be officially approved by these institutions, but should not pose a political problem.

Ben Scott, a former technology policy adviser to Hillary Clinton who is now executive director of advocacy group Reset, said: “The DSA is nothing short of a paradigm shift in technology regulation. It is the first major attempt to establish rules and standards for algorithmic systems in digital media markets.”

Negotiators had hoped to reach an agreement ahead of Sunday’s elections in France. A new French government could take different positions on digital content.

The need to regulate big tech more effectively came into focus after the 2016 US presidential election, when it was discovered that Russia had used social media platforms to try to influence the country’s voicete.

Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have promised to crack down on disinformation, but the problems have only gotten worse.

Health misinformation has flourished during the pandemic, and companies have again been slow to respond and crack down after years of allowing anti-vaccinationists to thrive on their platforms.

Under EU law, governments could ask companies to remove a wide range of content that would be considered illegal, including material promoting terrorism, child sexual abuse, hate speech and commercial fraud.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter would need to provide users with tools to flag such content in a “simple and effective manner” so that it can be quickly removed.

Online marketplaces like Amazon would have to do the same for shady products like fake sneakers or unsafe toys.

These systems are standardized so that they work the same on every online platform.

The tech giants have lobbied hard in Brussels to soften EU rules.

Twitter said it would review the rules “in detail” and pledged support for “smart, proactive regulation that balances the need to combat online harm with protecting the open internet.”

Google said on Friday that it looks forward to “working with policymakers to get the remaining technical details right to ensure the law works for everyone.”

Amazon referred to a blog post from last year that said it welcomed measures to boost trust in online services.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

The Digital Services Act would ban ads targeting minors, as well as ads targeting users based on their gender, race, and sexual orientation.

It would also ban deceptive techniques that companies use to trick people into doing things they didn’t intend, such as B. signing up for services that are easy to opt for but difficult to refuse.

To show they are making progress in limiting these practices, tech companies would need to conduct annual risk assessments of their platforms.

Until now, regulators haven’t had access to the inner workings of Google, Facebook, and other popular services. But under the new law, companies must be more transparent and provide regulators and independent researchers with information about content moderation efforts.

This could mean, for example, getting YouTube to release data on whether its recommendation algorithm has directed users to more Russian propaganda than normal.

The European Commission is expected to hire more than 200 new staff to enforce the new rules.

To pay for this, tech companies are charged a “regulatory fee” that can be as much as 0.1 percent of their annual global net income, depending on the negotiation.

Experts said the new rules are likely to spark copycat regulatory efforts from governments in other countries, while tech companies will also face pressure to roll out the rules beyond EU borders.

“When Joe Biden stands on the podium and says, ‘Gosh, why don’t American consumers deserve the same protection that Google and Facebook give European consumers?’ It will be difficult for these companies to deny applying the same rules elsewhere,” Mr Scott said.

But companies are unlikely to do so voluntarily, said Zach Meyers, senior research fellow at the think tank Center for European Reform.

He said there was just too much money at stake if a company like Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is restricted in how it can target ads to specific user groups.

“The big tech companies will strongly resist other countries adopting similar rules, and I can’t see companies voluntarily applying these rules outside the EU,” Meyers said.

The EU last month reached a separate agreement on its so-called Digital Markets Act, a law aimed at curbing the market power of tech giants and making them treat smaller competitors fairly.

And in 2018, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation set the global standard for privacy, despite criticism for not effectively changing the behavior of tech companies. Google, Twitter and Facebook face fines of 6 percent of sales for hate speech and disinformation after landmark EU deal

Fry Electronics Team

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