The European Union (EU) has given its final approval to two landmark laws designed to limit the power of the world's largest technology companies.

The first to come into force will be the Digital Markets Law (DMA), which aims to prevent so-called "gatekeepers" from abusing their dominant position to drive out competitors in markets such as search, browsers, messaging and email. These new rules will apply from the beginning of 2023.

The Digital Services Act (DSA), for its part, aims to limit the dissemination of illegal content and disinformation on digital platforms, in addition to prohibiting certain manipulative advertising practices. The terms of the DSA will start to apply approximately one year later.

Both proposals crossed their respective votes with overwhelming support.

New rules for big tech

The two new laws will attempt to address these diverse and complex issues by imposing a series of additional rules on Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon and Microsoft.

Under the DSA, for example, digital service providers will be required to implement new measures to ensure that illegal content can be quickly identified and removed and to implement new controls on online marketplace merchants.

Additionally, platforms that rely on AI-powered feeds to deliver content to users will be asked to disclose their algorithms for third-party inspection and offer deeper insight into their content moderation practices.

The DMA, on the other hand, includes measures to prevent gatekeepers from ranking their own products higher in search results and to prevent users from uninstalling preloaded apps, as well as obligations to provide people with easy ways to switch to alternative services. .

The legislation also mandates a level of interoperability between messaging services, which could have major ramifications for WhatsApp and Messenger, both owned and operated by Meta.

“For too long, the tech giants have profited from the absence of rules. The digital world has become a Wild West, with the biggest and strongest making the rules. But there is a new sheriff in town," said DSA reporter Christel Shaldemose.

“From now on, norms and rights will be strengthened. We open the black box of algorithms so we can get a good look at the money-making machines behind these social platforms.

An equally optimistic message was shared by Andreas Swab, WFD rapporteur, who said:

“We no longer accept 'survival of the financially fittest.' The goal of the Digital Single Market is for Europe to get the best companies, not just the biggest ones.”

Whether these new rules go far enough or can be effectively enforced is another question. There are those who think that the DMA does little to prevent guardians from abusing the power of default, for example. And while tech giants can be fined up to 20% of global revenue for repeated non-compliance, history has shown they are more than willing to take a few hits on the bottom line.

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