In what could force a revolution in the way Google and Facebook conduct business, the European Union will unveil new plans to control Big Tech tomorrow.
In addition to attempting to clamp down on misinformation and hate speech, the rules, wrapped in a so-called Digital Services Act, would prevent the giants of Silicon Valley from making unquestioned statements on emerging markets.
The initiative signals the beginning of a lengthy parliamentary period that could require a bruising period that may take years to negotiate with lobbyists, member states and the European Parliament.
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Here is a first look at what is going to be proposed on December 15 by the EU executive.
When the world’s major banks are too big to collapse, the internet will now have “gatekeepers” that are more influential than many nations in terms of digital superstars, seen as desperately having their own laws.
The EU believes that all the keys in the online universe are owned by Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, with the power to dictate their own laws and to snuff out possible competitors as soon as they appear.
In order to finish this the EU is writing a series of doses and not directly for the gatekeepers.
Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon hold all the keys in the online world, with an ability to dictate their own rules and to snuff out potential rivals
In search results, this could deter a business like Google from “self-preferencing” Google Maps. It could deter Apple from pressuring app-makers to use its payment store, preventing the iPhone-maker an immense reduction in sales.
Things are going to have to shift for the world’s main gatekeepers.
They will have to take more responsibilities,’ said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President of the EU.
Stop the hate
From Twitter to TikTok, all big online players have signed up to EU hate speech and misinformation codes of ethics, but it is optional to play by the rules.
Through the EU plan, things will change: if the likes of YouTube or Snapchat were found encouraging extremist or illegal material to circulate, the new European agency could threaten them with heavy fines.
Although, to some people’s dismay, the EU will not hold sites entirely accountable for this illicit content. Brussels concerns that free expression will be limited by big technologies to merely stay out of court.
Big technology is progressing very fast, but EU regulation of market is moving very slowly.
In a number of cases, it was only after almost a decade of EU procedures that Google was fined billions of euros, even after the search engine juggernaut had destroyed many of the complainants.
“One thing that competition law can’t do is revive the dead,” said a top EU official, Olivier Guersent.
Under the so-called Digital Markets Act, the EU aims to grant Brussels new powers to implement antitrust laws quicker and even to block buyouts, even though the evidence is not yet completely visible.
At the back of everyone’s mind are the “killer app” sales of WhatsApp and Instagram from Facebook, small businesses that in retrospect may have questioned the supremacy of the social network.
No black box
The initiative would also aim to unlock the black box on how big tech picks and to whom the information it displays.
The secret ingredient for algorithms in Big Tech has been a rising problem, with politicians seeing sites supporting racism, amplifying false or misleading news, and posing a threat to a healthy culture more broadly.
“One of the key purposes of the Act on Digital Services… Through ensuring that platforms are open about the way these algorithms operate, it would be to preserve our democracy, and make those platforms more responsible for the choices they make, Vestager said.
The plan would also aim to curb, in a clear shot at Amazon, how gatekeepers use the market data of businesses working on their sites.
When it sees the popularity of others sold through its website, what keeps Amazon from proposing its own products? Platforms will leverage certain knowledge and exclusive visibility into transactions and communications to fine-tune their own goods, selectively conquering new markets.