If it is up to the European Commission, the rules for online platforms (such as Facebook and Google) will become a lot stricter.

This week, EU economy ministers reached an agreement on the commission's proposal for the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA).

But what do they mean?

The DSA aims to better protect people online, for example against illegal trade.

The current rules for digital services are more than twenty years old and no longer adequate, because a lot has happened in those years.

For example, Facebook, Google and Amazon did not exist twenty years ago and they are now global players with a great deal of influence on society.

Three rules are central to the DSA bill:

  • European citizens and their fundamental rights must be better protected online

  • It becomes clearer for online platforms where their responsibilities lie

  • Innovation, growth and competitiveness in the digital market must be stimulated.

The European Commission believes that fundamental rights of citizens in a digital environment are currently insufficiently protected.

"For example, platforms can decide to remove content from users without notifying them. This has a major impact on users' freedom of expression."

Europe is pushing for more transparency

With the DSA, people should be better informed when messages are deleted.

Online platforms are expected to offer transparent terms so that everyone knows what is and is not allowed.

This will also make it clearer why people see certain advertisements.

According to the new law, it is also important that it is crystal clear which algorithms are used by online services and in what way.

European ministers indicated this week that internet companies must also disclose how many people they use to remove harmful messages.

To protect children online, they also want stricter age controls and more parental controls.

As part of that improved transparency that should reflect how companies operate, researchers should also be able to access platform data.

In this way they can gain more insight into the possible risks of platforms for society.

Not only do online platforms have to be clearer towards their users, the rules also have to become more manageable for the platforms themselves.

At the moment digital services have to deal with 27 different national legislations.

Ultimately, the rules will be aligned across Europe.

Limiting a dominant position

In addition to the Digital Services Act, a Digital Market Act is also in the works.

It must ensure that large tech companies do not abuse their dominant position.

The rules are made to ensure that more competition is possible and that users can make freer choices about the services they want to use.

The European Parliament and the European Commission will still negotiate on the details of the laws.

The aim is to reach a final agreement in 2022, after which the laws can enter into force.

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