Google, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram: All major Internet platforms with more than 45 million monthly users are now subject to stricter rules in Europe. For example, they must label advertising more clearly and disclose who is paying for it. Advertising aimed at children is thus banned altogether. Sensitive data such as origin, political opinion or sexual orientation may also no longer be used for advertising purposes. This is intended to protect younger users in particular.
Last week, the EU Commission published a list. This list includes 19 of the world’s largest Internet providers. Among them are US Internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. But also the Chinese video platform TikTok. They were all selected because they have more than 45 million users per month. According to the Commission, they thus bear a great responsibility to society. That’s why the EU is now tightening the rules. What does that mean exactly?
New rules for social media: combating hate speech and fake news
The problems are well known: Hate speech, fake news and disinformation. In addition, poor data protection and insufficient transparency regarding the functioning of platforms are repeatedly criticized by data activists such as the Austrian Max Schrems. In most cases, platforms are powerful, but users are not. That is about to change. The new rules oblige Facebook, Google and others to take stronger action.
To do this, they must check their own platforms for risks. Does an online service distribute illegal content or gender-specific violence? Are minors and their mental health sufficiently protected? Does the platform endanger freedom of expression and democracy? These are the questions that online platforms will have to answer in a report in the future.
The risk report is to be written and reviewed annually. The European Center for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT) will be responsible for the review.
The data must then be published by the online platforms so that users and researchers can access it.
Advertising must be more clearly labelled, and it must be clear who is paying for it
Until now, it has been almost impossible for users to understand why they are seeing a particular advertisement or content. In the future, social media must disclose how they work. That is, how the algorithm that selects the content works. What criteria does it use? For example, does the algorithm only select content that is highly polarizing and aimed at an emotional reaction from users?
“WHEN IT COMES TO ONLINE POLITICAL ADVERTISING, THERE MUST FINALLY BE COMPLETE CLARITY ABOUT WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR WHICH ADS AND CAMPAIGNS AND IN WHAT FORM. WHEN DISINFORMATION, HARMFUL CONTENT AND FAKE NEWS ARE SPREAD ONLINE, IT DAMAGES SOCIAL COHESION AND DEMOCRACY.,” SAYS ANDREAS SCHIEDER, SPÖ-EU HEAD OF DELEGATION.
A “Basic Law” for Social Media and Online Platforms
The new regulations are part of the EU’s Digital Service Act (DSA). A kind of basic law for online services, social media platforms and the digital space. The law was passed back in 2020 and came into force on November 16, 2022.
The DSA is intended to protect users, make digital services more transparent and make the Internet giants more accountable. In a nutshell: Everything that is prohibited “offline” should also be prohibited “online” by the DSA. This includes, for example, insults, incitement of the people or re-activation, i.e. the distribution of national socialist content or signs.
Facebook, Google, Amazon & Co. now have until August 25 to implement the new rules.