A new law aimed at regulating internet content has been enforced within the European Union (EU) as of Friday. Nineteen internet behemoths, spanning social media, e-commerce, and search engines, are now bound by augmented responsibilities to combat illicit content and enhance transparency, facing substantial fines for non-compliance.
The ambitious legislation, known as the Digital Services Law (DSL), marks an unparalleled step in global internet governance. As of its implementation, 19 major players in the online sphere, including Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and TikTok, are subjected to stringent obligations.
With each of these entities boasting over 45 million active users within the EU, the law introduces fresh mandates targeting misinformation, online hatred, child pornography, and counterfeiting. These activities will be vigilantly monitored by the European Commission.
Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, declared, “Europe is now the world’s first jurisdiction where online platforms no longer enjoy preferential treatment and cannot set their own rules. They are now regulated entities, just like financial institutions.” He emphasized a scrupulous enforcement of the DSL.
Non-compliant entities face penalties that could reach up to 6% of their global turnover. In cases of repeated and severe violations, a temporary ban on operating within the EU is also on the table.
To aid users in reporting illicit content as defined by national and European regulations, platforms are required to implement an easily accessible reporting tool and promptly remove such content. Moreover, an annual independent audit will verify the proper fulfillment of these obligations.
E-commerce platforms are also affected. They must establish means to trace vendors, ultimately curbing fraudulent activities.
Scrutiny extends to the algorithms that drive these platforms. They are now mandated to elucidate the functioning of their recommendation systems and offer non-personalized alternatives.
In the realm of advertising, the DSL prohibits targeting minors and publishing ads based on sensitive data such as religion or sexual orientation.
Several giants have already announced preemptive changes to comply with the regulations before the deadline. TikTok, for instance, now enables users to disable personalized content recommendations generated by algorithms.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has also taken steps to align with the DSL. The company has reportedly hired 1,000 individuals to oversee DSL implementation. Additionally, Meta committed to cataloging and archiving all EU-targeted advertisements and disclosing parameters used for targeting (e.g., age, gender, location).
Google pledged to provide more insights into its content moderation practices and to grant researchers access to more data.
Elon Musk, the owner of X (formerly Twitter), asserted that the platform is diligently working to comply with the new European standards.
In June, an EU-initiated stress test on Twitter concluded that the platform had “much ground to cover” in adhering to DSL rules, according to a Commission representative.
A dedicated team of around 100 individuals within the European Commission is responsible for overseeing DSL’s implementation.
Amazon and Zalando, both part of the 19 “very large platforms” subject to the new rules, lodged a legal appeal with the European court, arguing that they don’t meet the criteria for inclusion in this category.
While awaiting the judicial decision, these companies will still need to abide by the rules, with the exception of a provision related to advertising transparency for Amazon, as stated by the Commission.
Notably, many of the changes ushered in by this legislation may not be immediately perceptible to users, as they primarily concern internal mechanisms of the implicated companies, according to the same source.