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EU Cracks Down on Online Content, Sets Sights on 6 Major Tech Firms

The European Union has recently implemented new digital rules, focusing on six global tech giants. On September 6, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google (parent company Alphabet), Facebook (parent company Meta), and TikTok (parent company ByteDance) were classified as online “gatekeepers.” These companies will be subject to the highest level of scrutiny under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to improve user choice and foster fair competition.

The new rules will be phased in gradually to allow tech firms to meet strict requirements regarding user privacy, transparency, and content. Big tech giants operating in the EU will be required to prohibit certain user-targeting practices and prevent the spread of “harmful” content.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stated that the goal of the law is to maintain a safe online space. The law, which came into effect on August 25, mandates major online platforms to remove any content considered “disinformation” or “hate speech” by Brussels authorities.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internet enforcer, emphasized that the new law benefits consumers by offering more choices and fewer obstacles for smaller competitors. He declared that the DMA opens the gates to the internet.

The European Commission has categorized companies as gatekeepers if they provide core platform services that connect businesses and consumers, such as Google’s Chrome search browser and Apple’s App Store. Aside from protecting European consumers from disinformation and hate speech, the law also requires tech firms to be more transparent about their algorithms and how ads target users.

Consumers now have access to platforms’ recommendation algorithms for ads and the right to opt out. Reporting illegal content under the DMA will also be easier. Safeguards for minors, including system redesigns, privacy measures, and mental health-risk assessments, will be stricter, and ads targeting children are now prohibited.

Tech companies listed as gatekeepers have six months to comply with the DMA’s requirements. The rules will eventually apply to all digital services starting in February 2024.

The European commissioner emphasized the importance of compliance and warned that platforms would face investigation and sanctions for non-compliance. Offenders can face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover, and repeated rule-breaking may result in a ban from doing business within the EU.

Critics argue that the regulations threaten free speech and believe they provide an avenue for progressive bureaucrats in Brussels to censor online voices globally. However, the tech giants involved have publicly stated their intention to comply with the new rules.

Google, Apple, Meta, ByteDance, Microsoft, and Amazon have all stated their commitment to meeting the EU’s requirements. Elon Musk’s social media platform, X, is reportedly falling behind in compliance and may face expulsion from the continent if it fails to adhere to the rules.

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