The European Union embodies its regulation of the web

The European Union should finalize, on April 22, its text aimed at regulating large digital platforms, obligating at least twenty companies including GAFAM to cooperate with the authorities.

Calls for murder, child sexual exploitation images, disinformation campaigns or counterfeit products … The European Union wants to regulate the Internet through new legislation that must be finalized on Friday, April 22 by member states and the European Parliament.

The text, which has been debated for nearly a year and a half, should make very large digital platforms, such as Facebook (Meta) or Amazon, accountable, by forcing them to better fight illegal content and cooperate with authorities.

Representatives of the European Union institutions met shortly after 10:00 this morning in Brussels. They hope to find agreement Friday evening over this ground-breaking project that has sparked intense pressure from tech giants and heated debates about free speech.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is one of two parts of a master plan introduced in December 2020 by the Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, and its in-market counterpart, Thierry Breton.

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

DSA, for its part, is updating the e-commerce directive, which was born 20 years ago when the giant platforms were still in their infancy. The goal: to put an end to the areas of lawlessness and abuse on the Internet.

“What is prohibited offline must be banned online,” Thierry Breton wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The excesses of social networks often made headlines. The assassination of history professor Samuel Baty in France, after a hate campaign in October 2020, and the assault of protesters at the United States Capitol in January 2021, planned in part thanks to Facebook and Twitter …

The dark side of the Internet is also about selling platforms that are overrun with fake or defective products, which can be dangerous, such as children’s toys that do not meet safety standards.

The new regulation sets out an obligation to remove any illegal content “urgently” (according to national and European laws) once the platform becomes aware of it. It forces social networks to suspend users who “repeatedly” violate the law.

DSA will require online selling sites to verify the identity of their suppliers before offering their products.

At the heart of the project are new obligations imposed on “very large platforms”, those with “more than 45 million active users” in the European Union, that is, about two dozen companies, whose list has not been determined but will include Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft) as well as Twitter and possibly TikTok, Zalando, or Booking.com.

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

It will be audited once a year by independent bodies and placed under the supervision of the European Commission, which may impose fines of up to 6% of its annual turnover in case of repeated violations.

Misinformation and “revenge porn”

The DSA, for example, should mandate the removal of images used in “revenge porn” and prohibit use without consent of data relating to political views for advertising and targeting purposes.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged her support for the project on Thursday evening.

“For far too long, technology platforms have amplified disinformation and extremism without accountability… I urge our transatlantic allies to pass the Digital Services Act across the finish line and support global democracy before it is too late,” she wrote on Twitter.

La lanceuse d’alerte américaine Frances Haugen, qui a dénoncé la passivité de Facebook face aux nuisances de ses réseaux sociaux, avait salué en novembre le “potentiel énorme” du DSA qui pourrait devenir une “burris référence” pour référence United States of America.

However, the Confederation of European Consumer Associations (BEUC) fears the text does not go far enough, particularly in online sales. It considers it necessary to require commercial sites to perform random checks on the products of their suppliers.

Victoria Burnie, from AFP

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