The European Union is eliminating illegal areas on the Internet

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Member States of the European Union, the Commission and Parliament on Saturday finalized new legislation to better combat Internet excesses such as hate speech, misinformation campaigns and the sale of counterfeit goods.

Putting the savage west of the Internet in order, better combating murder calls, pedophile images, misinformation campaigns or counterfeit products … The European Union concluded new “historic” legislation on Saturday 22 April.

The text, which has been debated for almost a year and a half, has to hold large digital platforms, such as Facebook (Meta) or Amazon, accountable, forcing them to remove illegal content and cooperate with the authorities.

“This agreement is historic,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed on Twitter. “Our new rules will protect online users, guarantee freedom of expression and opportunities for businesses.”

The Digital Services Act, DSA, 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.

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

The DSA, meanwhile, is updating the e-commerce directive, which was born 20 years ago when giant platforms were still in their infancy. Objective: To end the areas of illegality and abuse on the Internet.

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 at the US Capitol in January 2021, partly planned thanks to Facebook and Twitter …

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 establishes the obligation to remove “quickly” any illegal content (according to national and European laws) as soon as a platform becomes aware of it. It forces social media to suspend users who “frequently” break the law.

The DSA will require online retailers to verify the identity of their suppliers before offering their products.

Prohibits misleading interfaces (“dark pattern”) that push Internet users into certain account settings or payment services.

New obligations for Gafam

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 perhaps TikTok or Booking.

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

They will be audited once a year by independent bodies and subject to the supervision of the European Commission, which may impose fines of up to 6% of its annual sales in the event of repeated infringements.

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In particular, the DSA prohibits the use of data on political opinions for advertising purposes.

This text “is a global novelty in terms of digital regulation,” the EU Council, which represents the 27 member states, said in a press release. “It enshrines the principle that what is illegal offline must also be illegal online.”

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday evening called on the EU to adopt this new legislation to “support global democracy before it is too late”. “For too long, technology platforms have amplified misinformation and irresponsible extremism,” he said.

U.S. whistleblower Frances Haugen, who denounced Facebook’s passivity in the face of social media harassment, praised the DSA’s “enormous potential” in November, which could become a “benchmark” for other countries, including the United States.

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In the context of the war in Ukraine and the disinformation campaigns it promotes, lawmakers added “a crisis response mechanism,” the European Council said. Activated by decision of the Commission, it will allow to take “proportionate and effective” measures against very large platforms that would contribute to spreading false news.

With AFP

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