Sweeping new rules in the European Union (EU) will prompt Big Tech companies to be open to competition and to take down harmful content. The proposed laws would require companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft to prevent the spread of hate speech and sale of counterfeit merchandise.
Margrethe Vestager, EU competition chief, said the proposals would serve a dual purpose. “To make sure that we, as users, have access to a wide choice of safe products and services online. And that businesses operating in Europe can freely and fairly compete online just as they do offline.” She described the new laws as milestones to make Europe fit for the digital age. “We need to make rules that put order into chaos.
A senior EU official told CNBC that the aim is to enforce remedies that will lead to practical changes rather than fining those breaching the rules constantly. He said the region, for long, has had concerns about how powerful some companies have become, and how it has become a problem for smaller firms looking to compete in the European market. Other countries have also been looking to tackle the tech giants, with regulators in the US filing a lawsuit against Facebook last week for illegally squashing competition.
Governments across the world, as per The New York Times, are increasingly scrutinizing tech companies that have become critical infrastructure for billions of people and businesses to communicate, shop, learn about the world and be entertained. The EU Digital Services Act is designed to address illegal and harmful content by asking platforms to rapidly take it down. Companies that do not follow these rules could face hefty fines. British officials outlined a legal duty of care to force companies to remove content considered harmful. In Brussels, leaders also proposed new transparency rules that require companies to disclose more about their services, including why people are targeted with advertisements and other content online. As such, internet retailers like Amazon could face new requirements to prevent the sale of counterfeit goods.
The latest set of proposals follows Europe’s landmark 2018 online privacy law – European Data Protection Regulation. Meanwhile, UK’s Competition and Markets Authority has announced its own plans to place limits on the tech giants, and ministers have also detailed how they plan to tackle online harms.