European Union limits targeted advertising and content algorithms under new law
Following a marathon 16-hour negotiation session, the European Union reached an agreement early Saturday to adopt the Digital Services Act. The legislation seeks to impose greater accountability on the world’s tech giants by enforcing new obligations companies of all sizes must adhere to once the act becomes law in 2024. Like the Digital Markets Act before it, the DSA could have far-reaching implications, some of which could extend beyond Europe.
While the European Commission has yet to release the final text of the Digital Services Act, it did detail some of its provisions on Saturday. Most notably, the law bans ads that target individuals based on their religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or political affiliation. Companies also cannot serve targeted ads to minors.
Another part of the law singles out recommendation algorithms. Online platforms like Facebook will need to be transparent about how those systems work to display content to users. They will also need to offer alternative systems “not based on profiling,” meaning more platforms would need to offer chronological feeds. Additionally, some of the largest platforms today will be required to share “key” data to vetted researchers and NGOs so those groups can provide insights into “how online risks evolve.”
Ta da! 16 hours, lots of sweets (but cookies still declined 😉 We have a deal on the #DSA: The Digital Services Act will make sure that what is illegal offline is also seen & dealt with as illegal online – not as a slogan, as reality! And always protecting freedom of expression! pic.twitter.com/mUhU84Q9FS
— Margrethe Vestager (@vestager) April 23, 2022
“Today’s agreement on the Digital Services Act is historic, both in terms of speed and of substance,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses. It gives practical effect to the principle that what is illegal offline, should be illegal online.”
Under the DSA, the EU will have the power to fine tech companies up to six percent of their global turnover for rule violations, with repeat infractions carrying the threat of a ban from the bloc. As The Guardian points out, in the case of a company like Meta, that would translate into a single potential fine of approximately $7 billion.
The DSA differentiates between tech companies of different sizes, with the most scrutiny reserved for platforms that have at least 45 million users in the EU. In that group are companies like Meta and Google. According to a recent report, those two, in addition to Apple, Amazon and Spotify, collectively spent more than €27 million lobbying EU policymakers last year to change the terms of the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act. The laws could inspire lawmakers in other countries, including the US, as they look to pass their own antitrust laws.
“We welcome the DSA’s goals of making the internet even more safe, transparent and accountable, while ensuring that European users, creators and businesses continue to benefit from the open web,” a Google spokesperson told Engadget. “As the law is finalized and implemented, the details will matter. We look forward to working with policymakers to get the remaining technical
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