Major Internet platforms such as Google, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are now required to adhere to more stringent regulations in Europe. These regulations include clearer labeling of advertisements and transparency regarding the advertisers. Additionally, advertising targeted at children is completely prohibited. Furthermore, it is no longer permissible to utilize sensitive information such as origin, political opinion, or sexual orientation for advertising purposes. The primary objective of these regulations is to safeguard younger users.

The EU Commission recently released a compilation of 19 prominent Internet providers, which includes major US companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon, as well as the Chinese video platform TikTok. These providers were chosen based on their monthly user count exceeding 45 million. The Commission believes that due to their significant user base, these companies hold a substantial societal responsibility. As a result, the EU is implementing stricter regulations. What precisely do these regulations entail?

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. 

Online platforms must assess their own platforms for potential risks. They need to determine if the distribution of illegal content or gender-specific violence occurs. Additionally, they should ensure that minors and their mental well-being are adequately safeguarded. Furthermore, they must evaluate whether the platform poses a threat to freedom of expression and democracy. These are the inquiries that online platforms will be required to address in a forthcoming report.

The risk report needs to be written and evaluated on a yearly basis. The European Center for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT) will be in charge of conducting the evaluation.

The information should subsequently be made available by the online platforms for users and researchers to retrieve.

The labeling of advertising needs to be improved, ensuring transparency regarding the entity responsible for its funding.

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? 

Andreas Schieder, the Head of Delegation for SPÖ-EU, emphasizes the importance of absolute transparency in online political advertising. It is crucial to clearly identify the responsible parties for each advertisement and campaign, as well as their specific format. The dissemination of disinformation, harmful content, and fake news online poses a threat to social cohesion and democracy.

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 purpose of the DSA is to safeguard users, increase transparency in digital services, and hold Internet giants responsible. In simple terms, the DSA aims to prohibit online activities that are already prohibited offline. This includes actions like insults, incitement of violence, and the dissemination of national socialist content or symbols.

The new regulations must be implemented by Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other similar companies by August 25th.