The European Union has made a historic agreement to end illegal zones on the Internet

The best fight against murder, pedophile images, misinformation campaigns or calls for fake products … The EU on Saturday finalized a new “historic” law to bring order to the western part of the Internet.

The text, which has been debated for nearly a year and a half, should be held accountable for large digital sites such as Facebook (Meta) or Amazon by removing illegal content and forcing them to cooperate with the authorities.

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“This agreement is historically significant,” said Ursula van der Leyen, head of the commission, who took to Twitter to say, “Our new rules will protect online users, ensure freedom of expression and business opportunities.”

The Digital Services Act (DSA) is one of two parts of a larger plan presented by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager and his counterpart Theory Breton in December 2020.

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The first part, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), deals with anti-competitive practices, which ended at the end of March.

The DSA, for its part, is updating the e-commerce mandate, which was born 20 years ago when the giant sites were still the nucleus. Objective: To put an end to areas such as illegality and abuse on the Internet.

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Samuel is a terrible example of the grandmother

Violations of social networking sites often make headlines. The assassination of Samuel Patti, a professor of history in France, was partly planned on Facebook and Twitter in October 2020, after a hate campaign and in January 2021, when protesters attacked the Capitol in the United States.

The dark side of the internet can be as dangerous as baby toys that do not meet safety standards on sites that are oversold by counterfeit or defective products.

The new regulation imposes an obligation to remove any illegal content (according to national and European law) as soon as a site becomes aware of it. It forces social networks to suspend users who “frequently” violate the law.

Online sales sites will force the DSA to verify the identity of their suppliers before delivering their products.

This prevents false interfaces (“dark mode”) that push Internet users towards specific account systems or specific payment services.

“Before it’s too late”

At the center of the project is a list of new obligations imposed on the “biggest sites”, “over 45 million active users” in the EU, that is, about twenty companies, but that includes Gafam (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft), as well as Twitter and maybe Dictoc or booking.

These players need to assess for themselves the risks posed by the use of their services and put in place appropriate steps to eliminate problematic content. More transparency will be imposed on their data and recommendation algorithms.

They are audited once a year by independent bodies and placed under the supervision of the European Commission, which can impose fines of up to 6% on their annual sales if repeated violations occur.

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In particular, the DSA prohibits the use of data on political views for advertising purposes.

The text is “the foremost in the world in terms of digital regulation”, underlined in a press release issued by the EU Council, which represents 27 member states. It “includes the principle that what is illegal offline must be illegal online as well”.

Accountability is essential

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday evening called on the European Union to adopt the new law “to support global democracy before it is too late.” “In the long run, technology sites have spread misinformation and extremism without accountability,” he said.

American whistleblower Francis Havgen, who condemned Facebook’s inaction in the face of social media harassment, praised the DSA’s “enormous potential” in November, saying it could be a “benchmark” for other countries, including the United States.

In the wake of the war in Ukraine and the false propaganda it promotes, lawmakers have added a “crisis reaction mechanism”, the European Council said. Implemented by the Commission’s decision, it will allow for “proportional and effective” action against the very large sites that contribute to the spread of misinformation.

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