European bodies agree strict new rules for online platforms

The European Parliament and the European Council, the body that represents member states, have agreed new rules to govern the behaviour of online platforms that includes opening up access to platforms’ algorithms, requirements to remove illegal products and services, and restrictions on recommendation and targeting.

Under the new Digital Services Act, the European Commission and member states will have access to the algorithms of very large online platforms.

Other measures include requirements for the swift remove of illegal content online, including products and services, and stronger safeguards to ensure notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory way with respect for freedom of expression and data protection.

Penalties for infringement mean that online platforms and search engines can be fined up to 6% of their global turnover.

Platfroms must inform users about how content is recommended to them and to enable them to choose at least one option not based on profiling.

Targeted advertising will be banned in the case of use of sensitive data, such as targeting based on sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity. Targeting of advertising to minors will be banned outright.

Platforms will also be prevented from ‘nudging’ people to use their service by giving them more prominence in search results, for example, while cancelling a subscription services should be as easy as signing up for it.

Very large platforms will be obliged to assess and mitigate systemic risks and will be subject to annual independent audits. The EC will also have gthe power to require large platforms to limit urgent threats in time of public security or health crises.

Once the draft text is finalised, Parliament and the Council will formally approve the act, which will come into force 20 days after its publication in the official journal. Rules will start to apply after 15 months.

Parliamentary rapporteur Christel Schaldemose said that the act would “set new global standards” by giving citizens “better control over how their date are used” by platforms.

She said that the rules “guarantee more choice for users and new obligations for platforms on targeted ads, including bans to target minors and restricting data harvesting for profiling.”

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