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Article

15 Dec 2020

Author:
Leo Kelion, BBC

Europe reveals proposals to regulate digital markets & protect people from online harm

"EU reveals plan to regulate Big Tech", 15 Dec 2020

Big tech firms face yearly checks on how they are tackling illegal and harmful content under new rules unveiled by the European Commission.

Fresh restrictions are also planned to govern their use of customers' data, and to prevent the firms ranking their own services above competitors' in search results and app stores.... Large fines and break-ups are threatened for non-compliance.

... The two new laws involved - the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act - have yet to be passed...

... The focus of the Digital Services Act is to create a single set of rules for the EU to keep users safe online, protect their freedom of expression and help both them and local authorities hold tech companies to account.

It introduces a sliding scale, under which firms take on more obligations the larger and more influential they are. So, for example, all internet companies must provide users with a way of getting in touch and the means to see their terms and conditions. The operators of online platforms - such as social media apps and video-sharing sites of any size - must prioritise complaints raised by "trusted flaggers", who have a track record of highlighting valid problems.

... But the biggest players must also subject themselves to further scrutiny, including an annual independent audit to check they are following the rules.

In addition, once a year they must publish a report into their handling of major risks, including users posting illegal content, disinformation that could sway elections, and the unjustified targeting of minority groups.

... Furthermore, the law specifies that local officials can send cross-border orders to make tech firms remove content or provide access to information, wherever their EU headquarter is based.

... Facebook was one of the first to respond, saying it thought the laws were "on the right track to help preserve what is good about the internet".

Apple declined to respond.

Google later sounded a more cautious note.

"We are concerned that [the laws] appear to specifically target a handful of companies and make it harder to develop new products to support small businesses in Europe," said Karan Bhatia, its vice president of government affairs.

The DigitalEurope trade association also voiced concern about whether the commission had got the balance right between privacy and preventing harmful activities, but said it needed more time to read the details.

... if passed, they should update current rules, which date back to 20 years ago when some of the tech firms affected did not exist.

Part of the following timelines

EU Parliament adopts Digital Services Act overhauling European Internet regulations

European Union seeks to enact the Digital Markets Act to regulate big tech