BRUSSELS -- A groundbreaking development in the world of technology and online content has arrived with the European Union's announcement of the Digital Services Act. This revolutionary law will have far-reaching implications for 19 major social media, search, and e-commerce services, including tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Meta Platforms (formerly Facebook), Google, TikTok, and Twitter, among others. These companies have been categorized as "very large" online platforms or search engines, and the clock is now ticking with a strict four-month countdown for them to comply with the new rules.
This new law marks the most significant overhaul of the Western world's approach to online content in over a generation, reshaping the concept of online responsibility as we know it since the dawn of the internet. Under previous laws, companies could often escape liability for user-generated content by taking limited actions when problematic content was flagged, as seen in the U.S.'s Section 230. However, the EU's Digital Services Act changes the game by requiring companies to conduct regular assessments of the risks their systems may pose to individuals or civic pillars, such as free expression or electoral participation. Moreover, these companies must demonstrate to regulators that they are proactively addressing these risks with robust systems.
The services that were listed on Tuesday were primarily selected because they had previously declared that they had over 45 million active users in the EU each month, reaching at least 10% of the bloc's population. As a result, they are subject to more stringent requirements and deadlines for compliance. However, services that fall below this threshold will face less strict requirements and will be enforced by national regulators in the country where the company's main EU headquarters are located, starting next year.
The consequences for violators of this new law are significant. Companies found in breach may face fines of up to 6% of their global annual revenue or 30 million euros ($33.1 million), whichever is higher. Additionally, the law includes provisions for potentially blocking a platform's services in cases of repeated infringements.
The European Union's Digital Services Act is a game-changer in the world of online content, with major implications for 19 prominent social media, search, and e-commerce services. This groundbreaking law represents a significant shift in the approach to online responsibility, requiring companies to conduct regular assessments of risks and demonstrate proactive measures to address them. With strict compliance deadlines and significant penalties for violations, the Digital Services Act marks a new era in the regulation of online content and sets a precedent for the future of digital content laws worldwide.