The European Union’s Digital Services Act comes into force on Friday, forcing social media platforms such as Google, Facebook, X and TikTok to take stricter measures against publications containing false information and hate speech, at risk of paying heavy fines.
The landmark Act is part of the European Union’s legal arsenal aimed at forcing tech companies into compliance and imposing order in what officials describe as the “wild west” of the internet.
The Digital Services Act forces companies to more strictly monitor digital content and protect internet users from false information and hate speech, or risk heavy fines.
As of Friday, all eyes will be on how the platforms comply and how this law will change online life in Europe, with experts predicting that it could lead to a wave of change outside the bloc.
Under the Digital Services Act, social media platforms with at least 45 million monthly active users are required to adhere to stricter rules, including actively combating false information.
Last April, the European Union named 19 social media platforms covered by the new Act, most notably Amazon Store, Apple Store, Google Play and German online store Zalando, as well as the major social media platforms such as Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and Google’s YouTube and Elon Musk’s X platform (formerly known as Twitter).
European Commissioner overseeing the digital market Thierry Breton said that companies have enough time to adapt their systems to their new obligations.
“The available devices will fully implement the Digital Services Act, and we will use all our new powers to investigate and sanction platforms when appropriate,” he add saying to AFP.
This was evident in the changes announced by some companies this summer, as in August, Meta and TikTok announced steps they would take to comply with the new EU Act, including giving European users more control over how they see content, with the option to opt-out of profiling-based recommendations.
The European Union, in particular, will monitor X platform since billionaire Elon Musk took over Twitter last year and made content decisions that raised compliance concerns.
Musk, who has embarked on a campaign to reduce platform costs, has previously warned that X needs sufficient resources to reduce dangerous content.
Meanwhile, Google says it didn’t wait for the Digital Services Act to enter into force, and has taken policies aimed at achieving greater transparency and accountability.
EU officials indicated that more companies could be added to the list violating the rules could result in fines of up to 6% of the company’s global revenue, or even a ban, also, another EU Act intended for big tech companies is looming.
Next month, the bloc will decide which technology companies will have to comply with stricter competition rules under the new Digital.
Last July, Brussels published a list of companies considered “controllers”, including Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Google, Meta, Microsoft and Samsung.
Additional rules imposed on these companies, including preventing them from controlling pre-installed applications on phones or directing users to their products.
A company that violates the Digital Markets Act will be fined up to 10% of its annual global revenue.
The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act aren’t the first measures the EU has taken to regulate the operations of technology companies.
Back in 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation came into force, fundamentally changing the way companies handle user data, with fines imposed on companies that break the rules.
Brussels is also working on another legislation that would be the first of its kind in the world to regulate artificial intelligence.
The Digital Services Act may be limited to Europe, but its impact could be felt outside as well, as this Act might be taken as an excuse for Social media platforms, to use it such a tool globally, on their users outside Europe.