The European Commission revealed its new rules concerning big tech firms and how they are handling illegal and harmful content as well as private data.
The new restrictions aim to govern their use of customers’ data as well as prevent the companies from ranking their own services higher than the competition in search results and app stores. These rules want to regulate digital markets.
If not followed, the companies will be faced with large fines.
The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act have not yet passed and will probably only come into play after the Brexit transition.
The Competition and Markets Authority, UK’s own regulator, stated that it aimed to put limits on the tech firms while ministers have given their detailed plan to tackle online harmful content.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager declared that the laws were a milestone for Europe and that rules were necessary to bring back order. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton also stated that these new rules will be put into place as soon as possible.
The Digital Services Act aims to create one set of rules for the whole EU in order to keep online users safe as well as protect their freedom of expression. Tech companies will then be held to account for their safety and freedom.
For instance, social platforms need to prioritize complaints by trusted users and all online stores must be able to trace traders selling on their platforms if it happens that counterfeit or illegal items are being offered.
Big tech firms will also have to go through an independent audit every year in order to check they are not breaking the rules as well as publish a report concerning how they handled major risks on their platforms.
The Digital Markets Act aims to regulate gatekeepers, meaning the people behind entrenched services that other businesses use to offer their products. This includes operators of search engines, social networks, chat apps, cloud computing services, and operating systems, etc.
This law has for goal to prevent big companies to gain advantages due to their high position. Hence, they have to inform the regulator of any planned takeover of another service, to treat their own service as equals to others, to restrain from using private data to launch a product and let users uninstall pre-installed apps on their platform and use different software.
If tech companies refuse to obey, the commission will give fines up to 10% of a firm’s annual turnover in Europe under the Digital Services Act, and 6% under the Digital Markets Act.
Facebook stated that these laws were a good step in the right direction. However, it declared that Apple needed to learn its boundaries, as it is using its power to harm developers and consumers. Apple didn’t respond.
Google was a bit more cautious, saying it is concerned that the laws will only target a few companies and make it more difficult for them to launch new products to support small businesses in Europe.
The DigitalEurope trade association also showed its concerns about customers’ privacy when dealing with harmful activities.