EU policymakers reach agreement on Digital Services Agreement

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European policymakers reached an agreement early Saturday in Brussels on a sweeping new law to force the world’s biggest tech companies to more aggressively vet their platforms for illegal content, paving the way for one of the most sweeping regulations ever. today to fight against a wide range of harms caused by social networks, commercial sites and search engines.

The legislation, called the Digital Services Act, would impose new transparency obligations on companies, requiring them to provide information to regulators and outside researchers about how the algorithms that control what people see on their sites work. It also creates new regulations on how companies target online advertisements.

The deal consolidates a two-bill plan, which also includes the Digital Markets Act, a competition bill that would establish new rules to prevent ‘gatekeepers’ from abusing their power to crush more little rivals. Both bills are awaiting votes from parliament and policymakers across the union’s 27 countries, which are widely seen as a formality.

“The Digital Services Act will ensure that what is illegal offline is also seen and treated as illegal online – not as a slogan, as a fact! And always protect freedom of expression! tweeted Margrethe Vestager, the best head of digital in Europe.

The agreement follows 16 hours of negotiations which lasted until early morning in Brussels.

World closing gap with Europe on digital rules, says EU competition chief

Washington lawmakers have failed to pass comprehensive tech legislation despite years of industry crackdown promises as Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon have accumulated power and influence for decades with a minimal regulation.

This has not been the case in the European Union, whose laws should now influence the regulatory debate in the United States. Europe passed its first landmark privacy law half a decade ago.

Despite the lack of action, bipartisan support has been building around antitrust regulation, particularly a bill aimed at preventing tech companies from offering their own products and services advantages on their platforms by compared to smaller rivals. Lawmakers have also introduced bipartisan bills to keep kids safe and mandate greater algorithm transparency from tech companies.

“This will essentially set the gold standard for online platform regulation for any regulator in the world,” said Mathias Vermeulen, co-founder and policy director of data rights agency AWO, who worked on the legislation.

Still, the consensus among Republicans and Democrats in Congress on moderating social media content is limited. Republicans largely say tech companies should take a more passive approach to moderating content, while Democrats have called on companies to be more aggressive in weeding out hate speech, health misinformation and lies about the elections. There are also First Amendment limitations to the regulation of content moderation practices by businesses in the United States.

Leaders of both parties have expressed concern that Europe is taking the initiative to regulate some of the most important companies in the US economy.

“As the world’s premier democracy, we must set a better example,” former President Barack Obama said in a speech Thursday at Stanford University, where he warned of the harmful effects of misinformation on democracies. “We should be able to conduct these discussions internationally, not [be] in back.”

Obama says tech companies have made democracy more vulnerable

The Digital Services Act agreement is a blow to Google, Facebook and other big tech companies, which have aggressively lobbied against aspects of the legislation. These companies could face fines of up to 6% of global turnover if they break the rules.

The Digital Services Act was first proposed in 2020, but discussions about tech companies’ responsibilities to oversee their platforms grew more urgent amid the war in Ukraine, as policymakers watched Russia use his megaphone on social media to sow propaganda about his invasion. Major tech platforms – including YouTube, Facebook and TikTok – have banned Russian state media in Europe following sanctions imposed on the bloc.

Major social media platforms ban Russian state media in Europe

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