Tech companies bracing for tighter EU regulation

18 February, 2020

By ECCT staff writers


Tech companies are bracing themselves for an overhaul of internet rules later this year by EU regulators that are aimed at clarifying rules drafted two decades ago on illegal content, disinformation and advertising transparency. While Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has called for more regulation of big tech companies like Facebook, EU regulators have rejected Facebook’s most recent proposals for how online content should be regulated, warning that the social media company will have to assume more responsibility for illegal material on its platforms.

Facebook already hires thousands of people to monitor and shut down accounts and take down inappropriate content and recently published a white paper called "Charting the Way Forward: Online Content Regulation". The 13-page document suggested that there should be global, rather than national, policies on what is permissible and that internet companies should not face any liability for content on their platforms or free speech would be limited. Instead, Facebook said internet companies should be held to account for whether or not they have standards and systems in place to combat illegal content. The company also argued that companies should be given flexibility to allow them to experiment with content moderation technology.

However, Thierry Breton, the French commissioner overseeing the bloc's data strategy, has rejected Facebook's proposal, saying that Facebook was being slow in coming forward with ideas on how to remove illegal content and warning that the EU was preparing to act. In particular, Breton said that if Facebook does not do enough to meet EU standards, provisions would be added to the forthcoming EU's Digital Services Act (due out later this year) to address this. 


Besides dealing with illegal content, the EU is also looking into ways to force a greater level of transparency and oversight of tech companies. For example, Vera Jourova, the commission's vice-president in charge of transparency and values wants the "black box" algorithms that power parts of the internet to be open to "audit" by researchers and other third parties so the public has a better idea of what determines what it watches and consumes via the web.

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