EU leaders are getting ready to initiate a consultation on its Digital Services Act after pausing it in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Monday (April 27), citing a source with knowledge of the discussions.
Brussels is asking for expanded power to investigate how tech companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook police illegal content online and how they collect and use data.
“We need to be able to look under the hood,” the source said. “Currently, we have no systematic way of finding out what's going on. In the areas of disinformation or illegal content, we always have to take the company’s word for it.”
“People are tired of that,” the person added. “It’s not like we want their secrets, but we need to make sure that areas of public interest are checked.”
The EU commissioners tasked with digital policy – Thierry Breton, Vera Jourova and Margrethe Vestager – are in favor of the move, multiple sources told FT.
Tech platforms were praised by Brussels for quickly removing erroneous information about the coronavirus. Officials are now asking if the companies can do the same in removing other misleading content.
Labor MEP Alex Agius Saliba, who is in charge of his committee's report on the Digital Services Act, said Big Tech’s response to the coronavirus has demonstrated that companies can improve their efforts.
“I am totally in favor of a system where the European Commission will work toward a system where consumers and regulators will have more information on how tech giants work. We must have a clearer picture,” he said.
It’s been 20 years since the EU revised the rules that govern the internet, which is now dominated by U.S. platforms. It could take two years following the consultation to formulate new rules, and it will probably take even longer to enforce the new policies.
The EU announced in February that it is planning to revamp the region’s digital market policy, including measures to limit data control by Google, Facebook, Amazon and other Big Tech firms.