(Brussels) Brussels unveiled on Tuesday a list of 19 very large online platforms, including Twitter, TikTok and the main services of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta and Microsoft, which will be subject to reinforced controls from the end of August.
These companies, which each have more than 45 million active users in the European Union (EU), will be placed under the supervision of the European Commission and subject to reinforced rules, including the obligation of an independent annual audit to ensure that they effectively fight misinformation, online hate or counterfeits.
“The countdown has begun for these 19 very large online platforms and search engines,” said EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton.
He recalled that they must fully comply with the special obligations imposed on them by the Digital Services Act (DSA), a historic regulation which entered into force in mid-November in the EU.
They will have until August 25 to comply.
Violators will face fines of up to 6% of their group’s worldwide turnover and, as a last resort, in the event of repeated serious breaches, a temporary ban from practicing in the EU.
The 19 platforms were designated on the basis of their number of users in Europe which they were required to publish before February 17.
Twitter, owned by US billionaire Elon Musk, and TikTok, owned by Chinese giant Bytedance, have recently fueled concerns about their ability to comply with EU law.
Thierry Breton was delighted that Twitter had agreed to submit to a compliance test which will take place “at the end of June” in San Francisco. He said that TikTok had also expressed interest in this support offered by the Commission to all the actors concerned.
The list unveiled on Tuesday also includes five services from the giant Google: search engine, cartography (Maps), application store (Play Store), online sales (Shopping) and videos (YouTube).
It also includes the Facebook and Instagram social networks of the Meta group, as well as the Bing search engine and Microsoft’s LinkedIn professional social network. Also affected are Apple, via its AppStore application store, and retail giant Amazon.
AliExpress, the logistics arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the social network Snapchat, the photo-sharing service Pinterest, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and the European champion in online fashion sales Zalando complete the list.
Considered to be of “systemic importance” and “particular responsibilities” due to their size, they will be placed under the direct supervision of the European Commission and will have to carry out a risk analysis of their services in terms of dissemination. illegal content, invasion of privacy or freedom of expression, but also in matters of public health or safety.
They will also have to put in place the appropriate means, in particular in the moderation of content, to mitigate these risks.
In addition, they will have the obligation to open their algorithms to experts from the European executive and to offer access to their data to approved researchers.
These rules, imposed only on very large platforms, are in addition to those provided by the DSA for all social networks, marketplaces and search engines, regardless of their size.
The rules binding on all players will become effective on February 17, 2024.
They include the obligation to act “promptly” to remove any illegal content as soon as the platform becomes aware of it, or the obligation to inform the judicial authorities when they suspect a “serious criminal offence”.
They also include prohibitions, such as those on using “sensitive” user data (gender, political leanings, religious affiliation, etc.) for targeted advertising and transparency obligations, such as the publication of the main parameters used by recommendation systems.
In addition to the list unveiled on Tuesday, Brussels checks the data of other platforms which have claimed not to fall within the scope of the reinforced DSA rules, such as Telegram, Airbnb, PornHub or Spotify.
Some of them could be designated later, if the Commission finds that they exceed the threshold of 45 million active users in the EU. Thierry Breton mentioned “four or five additional platforms” which could be announced “in the coming weeks”.
The DSA complements the Digital Markets Regulation (DMA) which tackles anti-competitive practices by tech giants and which came into force on November 1.