BRUSSELS: On Tuesday, the European Union released stringent draught rules targeted at tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, whose influence is seen by Brussels as a challenge to innovation and even democracy.
By targeting some of the world’s largest corporations with mammoth fines or bans from the European economy, the landmark reforms, which come as Silicon Valley faces increasing global pressure, could shake up the way Big Tech does business.
EU antitrust leader Margrethe Vestager said the bloc’s proposed regulations to control the internet sought to bring “order to chaos” and to reel in the market-dominating web “gatekeepers.”
She told a press conference, “The Digital Service Act and Digital Markets Act will create safe and trustworthy services while protecting freedom of expression.”
The EU claims that long-trailed laws will place penalties on internet behemoths of up to 10% of their revenue for violating any of the more serious antitrust rules or otherwise risking a breakdown. It also recommends that they be fined six percent of their profits or temporarily barred from the EU market “in the event of serious and repeated breaches of law that threaten the safety of European citizens.”
The Digital Services Act and its accompanying Digital Markets Act will set down stringent commercial conditions in the EU’s 27 member countries as regulators aim to curtail the dissemination of internet news and hate speech, as well as the business domination of Big Tech.
According to a source close to the EU Commission, ten companies were appointed as ‘gatekeepers’ under competition law and were subject to specific legislation in order to curb their ability to control markets.
US titans Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and SnapChat, China’s Alibaba and Bytedance, South Korea’s Samsung and the Netherlands’ Booking.com are the businesses that will be subject to tighter regulations.
The proposals would go through a lengthy and complicated period of adoption, with the final legislation being affected by the 27 EU states, the European Parliament and the lobbying frenzy of businesses and trade associations. As a means to give the Commission finer teeth in prosecuting social media sites when they allow illicit web material, such as terrorist messaging, hate speech, misinformation and child abuse, the Digital Communications Act is being touted.
The EU aims to grant Brussels new authority, under the Digital Markets Act, to apply antitrust laws more quickly and to press for greater transparency in their algorithms and the use of personal data.
The rules are meant to amend regulations dating back to 2004, when many of the internet giants of today either did not exist or were in their infancy. A Facebook spokesman said the new laws “are on the right path to help preserve what is good about the internet” and insisted that it looked forward to “engaging with EU lawmakers.” The social network pointed at fellow tech giant Apple, insisting that it required the iPhone manufacturer’s guidelines to “set boundaries,” with which it has addressed privacy.