The European Union is close to an agreement to secure the internet

After a first part was approved at the end of March, the European Union is studying the Digital Services Act, to better regulate the technology giants. An agreement could be reached on Friday.

How to crack down on “revenge porn”, misinformation, hate speech or the sale of dangerous products online? The EU could find an agreement on legislation on Friday to secure the Internet by holding digital platforms accountable.

“We will have an agreement”, the European Parliament and the Member States, which have been negotiating with the Commission since January, are “very motivated to close the Digital Services Act (DSA) on Friday”, says a European source.

The text is one of two parts of a major plan presented in December 2020 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and her Internal Market counterpart Thierry Breton to better regulate the technology giants.

The first part, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which targets anti-competitive practices, was concluded in late March.

End lawless areas

The DSA updates the e-commerce directive, born 20 years ago when giant platforms like Amazon or Facebook (Meta group) were still in their infancy. Objective: To end the areas of illegality and abuse on the Internet.

“What is illegal offline must also be illegal online,” sums up Thierry Breton.

Excesses on social media have often reached the headlines. Assassination of history professor Samuel Paty in France, following a hate campaign in October 2020, an attack on protesters in the capital of the United States in January 2021, partly planned thanks to Facebook and Twitter, campaigns of misinformation during the Brexit referendum …

The dark side of the Internet also refers to platforms saturated with the sale of counterfeit or defective products, which can be dangerous, such as children’s toys that do not meet safety standards.

The new regulation will force social media to suspend users who “frequently” post illegal content, as defined by national and European laws. It will require online sales sites to verify the identity of their suppliers before offering their products.

Deterrent fines

At the heart of the project are new obligations imposed on “very large platforms”, which have “more than 45 million active users” in the EU, ie around twenty companies, the list of which is for determine however that it will include Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) as well as Twitter, and probably TikTok, Zalando or Booking.

These players must themselves assess the risks associated with the use of their services and put in place the appropriate means to eliminate illegal content. greater transparency will be imposed on their data and their recommendation algorithms.

They will be audited once a year by independent bodies and will be subject to the supervision of the European Commission. You can impose penalties of up to 5% of your daily turnover to force them to react quickly, or fines of up to 6% of your annual sales in case of repeated infringements.

In particular, the DSA should demand the removal of images used for “revenge pornography” and prohibit the use of data on religions or political opinions for advertising purposes.

US whistleblower Frances Haugen, who denounced Facebook’s passivity in the face of the harassment of its social media to preserve its profits, had hailed in November the “enormous potential” of the European regulatory project that could become a “benchmark” for other countries, including the United States.

The Federation of European Consumer Associations (BEUC), however, fears that the text will not go far enough. He would like to ban all advertising based on the tracking of Internet users. It calls for banning “trick” (“dark pattern”) interfaces, for example, to push users to buy certain services or to accept certain settings, such as files that record their browsing data.

He considers it essential that online marketers impose random checks on the products of their suppliers. “The proposal contains many very good innovations. But if in the end we don’t force marketplaces to control what they sell, it could be a missed opportunity,” said Claudio Teixeira, a BEUC lawyer.

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