‘Historic’ EU legislation to fight internet outlaws

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European Union member states, the commission and parliament on Saturday finalized new legislation that will make it possible to better combat online abuses such as hate speech, disinformation campaigns or the sale of counterfeit products.

Bringing order to the far west of the Internet, better combating calls to kill, child sexual exploitation images, disinformation campaigns or counterfeit products… The European Union concluded new legislation on Saturday, April 22 “Historic”.

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 remove illegal content and cooperate with authorities.

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

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 internal market counterpart, Thierry Breton.

The first part, Regulating Digital Markets, the “Digital Markets Act,” DMA, which addresses anti-competitive practices, was completed at the end of March.

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

The excesses of social networks often grabbed the headlines: the assassination of history professor Samuel Baty in France, after a hate campaign in October 2020, and the assault on the US Capitol by protesters in January 2021, which was partly planned thanks to Facebook, Twitter … etc.

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 is an obligation to remove any illegal content “urgently” (according to national and European laws) as soon as 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.

It blocks misleading interfaces (“dark mode”) that push Internet users towards certain account settings or paid services.

New commitments to Qefam

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 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.

>> To read: Ukraine: Live War in the Age of Social Networks

In particular, the DSA prohibits the use of data relating to political opinions for the purpose of advertising targeting.

This text “is the first of its kind in the world in terms of digital regulation,” the Council of the European Union, which represents the 27 member states, confirmed in a press release. It “establishes the principle that what is illegal off the Internet must also be illegal online.”

And former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the European Union Thursday night to adopt this new legislation “to support global democracy before it is too late.” “For too long, technology platforms have amplified disinformation and extremism without accountability,” she said.

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.

>> To read: The War in Ukraine: A Telephone Campaign to Combat Russian Disinformation

The European Council said that in the context of the war in Ukraine and the disinformation campaigns it encourages, lawmakers have added a “crisis response mechanism”. By activating it by a decision of the authority, it will enable “proportionate and effective” measures to be taken against very large platforms that would contribute to the dissemination of false news.

with AFP

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