EU lawmakers pass landmark tech rules, but enforcement a worry

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EU lawmakers gave the thumbs up on Tuesday to landmark rules to rein in tech giants such as Alphabet unit Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, but enforcement could be hampered by regulators’ limited resources.

In addition to the rules known as the Digital Markets Act, lawmakers also approved the Digital Services Act, which requires online platforms to do more to police the internet for illegal content.

Companies face fines of up to 10% of annual global turnover for DMA violations and 6% for DSA breaches. Lawmakers and EU states had reached a political deal on both rule books earlier this year, leaving some details to be ironed out.

EU LAW TARGETS BIG TECH OVER HATE SPEECH, DISINFORMATION

The European Commission has set up a taskforce, with about 80 officials expected to join up, which critics say is inadequate. Last month it put out a $12.3 million tender for experts to help in investigations and compliance enforcement over a four-year period.

EU industry chief Thierry Breton sought to address enforcement concerns, saying various teams would focus on different issues such as risk assessments, interoperability of messenger services and data access during implementation of the rules.

Regulators will also set up a European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency to attract data science and algorithm scientists to help with enforcement.

European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference on a plan to boost the chip industry, in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 8, 2022. 

European Commission Vice President Margrethe Vestager holds a news conference on a plan to boost the chip industry, in Brussels, Belgium, on Feb. 8, 2022. 
(Reuters/Yves Herman)

“We have started to gear the internal organization to this new role, including by shifting existing resources, and we also expect to ramp up recruitment next year and in 2024 to staff the dedicated DG CONNECT team with over 100 full time staff,” Breton said in a blogpost.

Deep Pockets

Lawmaker Andreas Schwab, who steered the issue through the European Parliament, has called for a bigger taskforce to counter Big Tech’s deep pockets and array of lawyers.

European Consumer Organization (BEUC) echoed the same worries.

“We raised the alarm last week with other civil society groups that if the Commission does not hire the experts it needs to monitor Big Tech’s practices in the market, the legislation could be hamstrung by ineffective enforcement,” BEUC Deputy Director General Ursula Pachl said in a statement.

The DMA is set to force changes in companies’ businesses, requiring them to make their messaging services interoperable and provide business users access to their data.

ANGER AT BIG TECH NO EXCUSE TO ABANDON FREE MARKET

Business users would be able to promote competing products and services on a platform and reach deals with customers off the platforms.

Companies will not be allow to favor their own services over rivals’ or prevent users from removing pre-installed software or apps, two rules that will hit Google and Apple hard.

The DSA bans targeted advertising aimed at children or based on sensitive data such as religion, gender, race and political opinions. Dark patterns, which are tactics that mislead people into giving personal data to companies online, will also be prohibited.

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