Sat. May 28th, 2022

European Union (EU) lawmakers agreed Saturday on a landmark law to force tech giants such as Google and Meta to rid their platforms of hate speech and other forms of illegal content.


The lawmakers reached a sweeping, provisional political agreement on the Digital Services Act after hours of deliberation.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen called the agreement “historic” in a statement.

“Today’s agreement on the Digital Services Act is historic, both in terms of speed and of substance,” she said. “It will ensure that the online environment remains a safe space, safeguarding freedom of expression and opportunities for digital businesses.”

Under the agreement, “what is illegal offline” in the European Union “must also be illegal online,” the European Council said in a statement on the agreement.

Illegal content is defined the proposal for the law as “hate speech” or “terrorist content,” unlawful discriminatory content and content that relates to illegal activities, such as child sexual abuse. The proposal also includes efforts to ensure safety of products sold online and a memorandum of understanding to prevent counterfeit goods in online marketplaces.

The law will especially target “very large online platforms” with more than 45 million monthly active users, the European Council said. Those providers will face “more stringent requirements,” while smaller businesses will have exemptions from some of the new rules.

Large online platforms must also carry out an annual assessment on reducing risk in six areas under the new law.

As defined by the EU, those areas include dissemination of illegal content; adverse effects on fundamental rights; manipulation of services “having an impact on democratic processes and public security”; adverse effects on gender-based violence; adverse effects on minors; and “serious consequences for the physical or mental health of users.”

In particular, platforms will be prohibited from targeted advertising to minors using their personal data, while misleading interfaces known as “dark patterns” will also be banned under the DSA.

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