Google, Twitter And Facebook All Under EU Scrutiny as New Rules Kick In

The European Union’s (EU) Digital Services Act (DSA) is set to introduce regulations that will reshape the landscape of internet governance.

This legislation brings forth strict guidelines around content moderation, user privacy, and transparency for major online platforms. Starting this Friday, prominent tech giants like Facebook and Instagram (owned by Meta), Apple’s App Store, and select Google services will be subjected to a series of new obligations within the EU. These obligations include preventing the spread of harmful content, restricting certain user-targeting practices, and sharing internal data with regulators and researchers.


EU’s Global Tech Regulation Leadership


The EU has emerged as a global trailblaser in tech regulation, spearheading not only the DSA but also other far-reaching legislations like the Digital Markets Act and the AI Act. The impact of these laws’ implementation within the EU will likely influence the adoption of similar regulations worldwide.

However, concerns have been raised by researchers regarding whether the affected companies have met the expectations set by lawmakers. The initial scope of the DSA targets the 19 largest online platforms with over 45 million users in the EU. By mid-February, these regulations will extend to various online platforms, irrespective of their size.


Strict Penalties for Non-Compliance


Non-compliance with the DSA carries substantial financial consequences. Companies found to be in breach could face fines of up to 6% of their global turnover, and habitual offenders might even face the possibility of being barred from conducting operations within Europe.

When queried about their adaptations to the DSA, the designated companies largely referred to public blog posts, offered limited comments, or did not respond. Notably, Amazon and Zalando are contesting their inclusion in the DSA’s jurisdiction, challenging the criteria for selection. Amazon has initiated legal proceedings against its designation, stating that larger competitors in certain countries were not included. Zalando similarly raised objections, arguing that its user base fell below the stipulated threshold.



Stress Testing and DSA Preparedness


In preparation for the DSA, the European Commission engaged in “stress tests” with the 19 targeted platforms. These tests evaluated the platforms’ ability to detect, address, and mitigate systemic risks, particularly disinformation. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat were among the platforms that participated, with the Commission acknowledging the need for further work to align with the DSA’s requirements.

As the DSA takes effect, a study conducted by the nonprofit Eko revealed that Facebook was still endorsing online ads containing harmful content. Eko submitted 13 ads, including those inciting violence against immigrants and promoting the assassination of a prominent Member of the European Parliament. Facebook approved eight of these ads within 24 hours, prompting concerns about content moderation effectiveness.


Global Witness and Hate Speech


Another nonprofit, Global Witness, reported that Facebook, TikTok, and Google’s YouTube had approved ads inciting violence against the LGBT community in Ireland. While Meta and TikTok emphasised their commitment to combating hate speech, Google remained unresponsive.

As the DSA ushers in a new era of digital governance, the designated companies are confronted with big challenges. Legal battles, questions about preparedness, and concerns regarding harmful content moderation all underscore the complex nature of aligning with these regulations. Whether these platforms can navigate their legal obligations without compromising their core business models remains to be seen.