The European Union reached an agreement Saturday on landmark legislation forcing Big Tech firms such as Google and Facebook’s parent company Meta, as well as other internet services, to more aggressively combat hate speech and misinformation or risk multibillion-dollar fines.
Under the new Digital Services Act, companies will be required to strictly police their online platforms by setting up new policies and procedures to quickly remove flagged hate speech, terrorist propaganda and any other content deemed illegal by countries within the European Union.
The new law also bans ads targeted at minors from theses companies’ platforms, as well as ads based on a user’s gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It will also get companies to disclose how their services spread or amplify divisive content.
“With today’s agreement we ensure that platforms are held accountable for the risks their services can pose to society and citizens,” E.U. Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
“The time of big online platforms behaving like they are ‘too big to care’ is coming to an end,” E.U. Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton added.
The Digital Services Act, one half of an overhaul for the 27-nation bloc’s digital rulebook, is the European Union’s third significant law targeting the tech industry — helping cement Europe’s reputation as the global leader in efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.
While the new rules aim to make tech companies more accountable for content created by users and amplified by their platforms’ algorithms, online platforms and search engines with more than 45 million users in the European Union will face additional scrutiny, including fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s annual global revenue and banning repeat offenders.
A Google spokesperson told NBC News in a statement that while the company welcomes the European Union’s efforts of “making the internet even more safe, transparent and accountable,” they are looking forward to “working with policymakers to get the remaining technical details right to ensure the law works for everyone.”
Similarly, Twitter responded to the new regulations by saying the company looks “forward to reviewing the regulation in detail.”
“We support smart, forward thinking regulation that balances the need to tackle online harm with protecting the Open Internet — while also understanding that a one-size-fits all approach fails to consider the diversity of our online environment,” a Twitter spokesperson told NBC News in a statement.
Amazon did not comment on the new Digital Services Act specifically, but said the company welcomes “all measures that benefit the single market, enhance trust in online services, and improve the experience of both customers and businesses in Europe.”
“Though we await the full detail of the Digital Services Act, we support its aim to harmonise the approach to online content issues,” a TikTok spokesperson told NBC News in a statement, adding the company welcomes the law’s “focus on transparency as a means to show accountability.”
Apple, Microsoft and Meta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The agreement reached on the landmark new law is now subject to formal approval by the European Council and the European Parliament. If approved, it could be enforced as early as 2024.
Cristian Santana and Associated Press contributed.