The European Union is working on more Big Tech regulations that could affect users in the U.S. and elsewhere.
On Saturday, the EU announced that its Parliament and member states agreed to a broad new set of laws collectively called the Digital Services Act, or DSA. Once passed, big tech companies like Google and Meta would be forced to reveal how their algorithms work, change their approaches to targeted advertising, and more. The EU will have a final vote on the DSA once the language is finalized, with the law taking place either 15 months after the vote or at the start of 2024, whichever comes later.
The list of provisions in the DSA is long and encompasses a lot of things about how Big Tech companies operate, but some of the highlights include:
Forced transparency about how content algorithms, like Facebook’s newsfeed, work
The ability for users to appeal content moderation decisions, like posts being removed
Unspecified “mechanisms” for big platforms like Google to adapt during public security or health crises
No more targeted advertising based on sexuality, religion, or ethnicity, and no more ads targeted at minors
Obviously, all of those would have big effects on those of us who use the internet daily. Plenty of folks would certainly love a peek behind Facebook’s algorithm curtain, for example. And the ability to appeal your posts being removed if they didn’t actually break any laws or terms of service rules would be nice, too.
It’s been a busy spring for the EU’s tech legislation groups. Just last month, another tentative agreement was reached on a bill that would no longer allow companies like Apple to give preferential treatment to their own apps on their devices. In other words, your iPhone would no longer assume you want to use Safari; and iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp would be able to talk to each other.
Finally, while the DSA is a European law, Big Tech companies might be inclined to just adopt the rules worldwide to save time and energy on creating different rule sets for different regions. A bunch of provisions from the huge General Data Protection Regulation law in 2018 made their way stateside, for example. That said, regional carve-outs aren’t unheard of, either; SiriusXM gives Californians (and only Californians) a way to manage their personal data because a state law requires it.
Let’s hope tech companies take the lazier route and just apply the same rules everywhere if the DSA passes.