In a bid to safeguard users’ rights and ensure digital safety, major tech giants and search engines are now mandated to adhere to the new regulations set forth by the European Union (EU).
Enforced under the EU Digital Services Act (DSA), these regulations have the power to impose substantial fines on violators.
Nineteen prominent platforms, including behemoths like Facebook and TikTok, are subject to the strictest rules delineated by the DSA.
These rules encompass provisions such as devising protective strategies for children and combating election interference. Notably, these adjustments have implications for users not only within the EU but also in the UK.
Although the UK’s Online Safety Bill is still undergoing legislative processes, the EU’s Digital Services Act has already been enacted since November 16, 2022.
Companies were afforded a grace period to ensure their systems aligned with the stipulated regulations.
The European Commission revealed a list of “very large online platforms” with over 45 million EU users on April 25, subjecting them to the most stringent DSA provisions. This list includes notable names such as Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, TikTok, and X (formerly known as Twitter). Search engines like Google and Bing are also obligated to comply.
These platforms were granted four months to adapt to the DSA requirements, whereas smaller tech services have until the following year to conform.
Non-compliance may result in a fine amounting to 6% of turnover and potentially even suspension of services.
The DSA entails additional obligations for these significant platforms and search engines, including assessing potential risks, reporting those assessments, and instituting measures to address the identified issues.
These risks encompass domains such as illegal content, rights preservation (including freedom of expression, media freedom, and more), public security, electoral process threats, and well-being considerations.
Of particular note is the ban on targeted advertising based on profiling children, a move aimed at protecting young users.
Additionally, these platforms must provide regulatory bodies with insights into their algorithm operations, such as the decision-making processes behind displaying advertisements or posts in users’ feeds.
They are also mandated to establish mechanisms for sharing data with independent researchers.
Several platforms, including TikTok and Meta, have communicated the extensive efforts put into compliance, with over a thousand employees dedicated to this purpose.
Numerous alterations have already been made, with a focus on personalized advertisements and feeds. TikTok ceased showing personalized ads to European users aged 13-17, based on their online activities.
Meta, which includes Facebook and Instagram, ceased displaying ads to users aged 13-17 worldwide, focusing on activities within the apps. Several other platforms have similarly made adjustments to align with the DSA regulations.
However, some platforms are yet to disclose the specifics of their changes, with X (formerly Twitter) simply stating its progress towards meeting compliance deadlines.
The new regulations have not been without controversy. Retail giants Amazon and Zalando have contested their designation as “very large online platforms” through legal action. Amazon, nonetheless, undertook measures to comply with the act.
Wikipedia has also undergone some modifications in response to the DSA, with its supporting Foundation suggesting these changes won’t significantly impact users’ experiences. The Foundation views the DSA’s approach to regulation as favorable compared to the UK’s Online Safety Bill.
Phil Bradley-Schmieg, legal counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation, expressed hope that lawmakers would follow the DSA’s example, protecting safe and public projects online while comprehending the multifaceted internet ecosystem.