EU Lawmakers Approve Bills to Rein in Big Tech

Posted on July 5, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon, Android, Apple, Google, iOS, iPadOS, Mac and macOS, Microsoft, Windows 11 with 31 Comments

On Tuesday, EU lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA), two bills aimed squarely at reining in Big Tech.

“The two bills aim to address the societal and economic effects of the tech industry by setting clear standards for how they operate and provide services in the EU, in line with the EU’s fundamental rights and values,” the European Parliament announced. “The Digital Services Act was adopted with 539 votes in favor, 54 votes against, and 30 abstentions. The Digital Markets Act – with 588 in favor, 11 votes against, and 31 abstentions.”

The Digital Services Act (DSA) sets clear obligations for digital service providers, such as social media or marketplaces, to tackle the spread of illegal content, online disinformation, and other societal risks, the EU says. It obligates technology platforms to enact new measures to counter illegal content online and to do so quickly, improve transparency with regards to content moderation and automated content recommendations while giving users the ability to challenge moderation decisions, and bans the use of misleading and targeted advertising such as the use of so-called “dark patterns.” And platform with 45 million or more monthly active users will have to adhere to even stricter regulations.

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) requires large online platforms that act as “gatekeepers” to ensure a fairer business environment and offer more services for consumers. This includes requiring them to open up their services to third parties to give users more choice, and to allow business users to access their own data generated on the gatekeepers’ platforms. Most importantly, the DMA prevents platform makers from favoring their own services over those of rivals or partners, requires them to allow their customers to easily uninstall any preloaded software/apps and to use rival apps and app stores, and forgo using personal data for targeted ads unless consent is explicitly granted.

“To ensure that the new rules on the DMA are properly implemented and in line with the dynamic digital sector, the [European] Commission can carry out market investigations,” the announcement adds. “If a gatekeeper does not comply with the rules, the Commission can impose fines of up to 10 percent of its total worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, or up to 20 percent in case of repeated non-compliance.”

The new bills will be formally adopted by the European Council in July (DMA) and September (DSA), respectively, and both acts will be published in the EU Official Journal and enter into force twenty days after publication.

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Comments (31)

31 responses to “EU Lawmakers Approve Bills to Rein in Big Tech”

  1. cjhawkins3rd

    Who decides what is disinformation? Can rivals provide apps that are harmful to the platform? How do you assure consumers have equal access to all competitors' services? Seems like these laws raise lots of interesting questions?

    • will

      Curious how the US will follow on this?

      • dftf

        If I were to hazard-a-guess, California will rush to do something similar; the State of New York will then follow... and pretty-much all of the other states will do nothing? Isn't that usually the pattern?

    • dftf

      Who decides what is disinformation?


      In the EU, this will be the EU Commission and if challenged-legally, the ECJ (European Court of Justice), which is their equivalent of the US Supreme Court. In the US, this is currently largely decided by the senior-figures of each app themselves, with debates around whether First Amendment rights to free-speech apply when on a private app or not. (In most Western countries, it would essentially boil-down to their government, and then if legally-challenged, whatever their highest-court was to rule.)


      How do you assure consumers have equal access to all competitors' services?


      This is one bit where I think it's clearly the case the legislators may not understand how the technology actually works. The only example I can think of where you have had cross-cooperation in the past would be that time MSN Messenger (Windows Live Messenger) and Yahoo! Messenger allowed each-others' users to chat to one-another... but that didn't apply to the advanced-features, such as games, webcam or file-sharing, from what I can remember. Maybe Apple allowing iTunes and iPod to work on Windows (though clearly that was a business-decision); Safari for Windows perhaps? There really isn't many examples to go-on...

      • bkkcanuck

        I can think of one way to open up services.... making it a requirement for any platform of a certain size... to implement an open API... where their front end software or services can only take advantage of the same API that is implemented and accessible to third parties. Any party that takes advantage of this open API, that is below that size requirement... must implement reciprocal access (i.e. if it is small and closed and does not connect to outside services - does not have any requirement to open up themselves... (I think that would make it requirement only to those who have the resources to implement it, but smaller services have to provide reciprocal open access - as a required fair exchange). Tokenized security services should also be a requirement to be implemented as part of the requirement - but they then have to open themselves up to security audits to ensure that security is not compromised. (May require liability insurance or self-insurance arrangements to be in place). Messaging platforms must implement access bridges between services (i.e. between customer A of platform C and customer B of platform D to communicate without discrimination, but a customer themselves may block other platform messages if they want (usually in the case of having SPAM from outside one system).

  2. rm

    I'm glad they are at least giving it a first attempt at improving tech (mainly Google, Apple, and Facefook needed this). But they need to start looking at AI as well.


    • wright_is

      They already are, their are a few commissions looking into various aspects of AI.

  3. scovious

    Colour me impressed. Let's see if it pays off.

  4. red.radar

    I am very curious to see how this impacts messaging platforms. Does the messaging service have to be made available to all platforms or is it deeper and third party clients need to have access to the network? I am ok with equitable access but I really don’t want a privacy focused service to have to connect to a Facebook client. That would comprise the security of the network and you will never know if the other end of the line is secure.

  5. peterepete

    The American big tech firms are so overwhelmingly slimy & sleazy they are near experts at ducking & dodging regulations now. The EU is at best a bunch bickering suits who believe themselves to be world leaders in though & action. Big tech will keep laughing at them all the way to the bank.

    • dftf

      While I wouldn't use as-strong words as yourself, it is somewhat ironic that the US is going-after TikTok for sharing user-data with the Chinese government -- when it's obvious to most people that US agencies like the NSA and FBI will likely be doing the same with US-owned apps and websites.


      And it wasn't all that long-ago there were all the news stories on how the Facebook app preinstalled on many phones would collect data from that phone even if the user had never opened it! Even-today, the app version asks for permission to read your list of contacts, and then shares all that information back to Facebook, meaning they are collecting names, phone-numbers, home addresses and e-mail addresses from people who may not have consented to them having them!

  6. lvthunder

    I am against almost any law that doesn't apply to everyone the same. It shouldn't matter how many active users you have.

    • nbplopes

      Don’t understand your point because it does apply to everyone.

    • Bart

      This is the EU trying to right, where capitalism went wrong. And let's face it, capitalism has gone horribly wrong.

      • eric_rasmussen

        Indeed it has. The echo chambers of social media have greatly contributed to the social divisions in modern society. Whereas people in the past may have disagreed with one another, people today too often view the opposition as enemies thanks to social media's use of targeted algorithms to trigger extreme emotional responses. Profit motive in big tech is tearing countries apart.

        • lvthunder

          What does any of that have to do with capitalism? That's more the downside of free speech than it is Capitalism. I think the "you don't think like me so you are the enemy" isn't an algorithm issue. It's a people issue. I think a lot of the ugliness on the internet is because you don't see people as people. Most of the time you don't even know their name.

          • nine54

            If the other posters mean that polarizing topics are good for business and the algos help surface these topics, then they may have a point. But I agree that this is a societal/cultural issue with free speech and free thinking. In fact, these companies probably would be better off letting the algos do their thing instead of manipulating or censoring the output via their thought police.

            • bkkcanuck

              Yes, but the algorithm is responding to what the user wants to watch - instead of feeding them what they have shown no interest in. Yes, it is a feedback loop, but the majority of people are stupid and just like reading what affirms what they believe. Are you saying the companies should purposely try to funnel stuff to you - that you don't like - because the corporation knows what is best for you... There are no easy answers - well other than getting rid of all the stupid people... but then.... you might find yourself or myself eliminated from existence ... ha ha ha

      • red.radar

        There is nothing wrong with capitalism provided the market is competitive.





        • dftf

          "There is nothing wrong with capitalism provided the market is competitive"


          And while we're at-it, can we add "...and also allow companies to fail"? I thought the whole-thing about capitalism is that people take a risk, and if it pays-off they reap the rewards; but if things fail, they fail. We seem to ignore that last-part nowadays, and endlessly bail-out failing companies.


          On a similar-note, it's also ridiculous how when companies do fail, and liquidate themselves, none of the debts chased get repaid... but the same executive people involved are free to open another company, doing the exact same thing, often with a similar-name (and in some cases, also in the exact same premises), but the debts somehow don't follow-them? Maybe tie debts to people, not companies?

        • mikegalos

          Ironically, the whole point of actual Capitalism, the reforms to mercantilism done by Adam Smith in 1776 in his book The Wealth of Nations, is to have the government step in to maintain a level and competitive marketplace.


          What people call "Capitalism" is precisely what actual Capitalism was created to fix in Mercantilism and those fixes are why Smith was called "The First Liberal".


      • bob3160

        Capitalism over Socialism or Communism any time. But you are correct, Capitalism needs to be reigned in a bit.

    • stvbnsn

      Why? Legislation that acts in a remedial capacity to fix market failures that have let companies become bad actors seems like using a precise tool to correct those actions rather than a sledge hammer to affect a promising avenue of technologies and businesses as a whole.

      • lvthunder

        I don't see any market failures. I just see large companies trying to grow. If the market (the consumers) decides one of these companies are bad everyone will stop buying their products and that company will either change its ways or cease to exist.


        As for everyone having the same rules applied to them think of it this way. If a company is causing you harm do you care about the size of that company? No, you don't. So if it's bad for Meta to do something it's bad for Truth social to do the exact same thing.

        • nbplopes

          I agree but not at expense of customer choice. Both Apple and Google, more so the former are approaching with a strategy where one single decision compromise users choice in unpredictable ways fully controlled by them.


          One can say that we’ll change decide. But once you have a phone, car … speakers … arguing free market choice in such a scheme is a mirage. Indeed the notion of choice becomes a distopian concept.


          If the US customers want to follow that path is fine … but EU customers will not.

        • stvbnsn

          Meta and Alpahbet (through Google) have captured the multibillion dollar advertising market (partly through innovation but almost exclusively through acquisition) and by that line of business have boosted and assisted their other products to the detriment of the market and consumers. The market fails when the vendor side has the power to eliminate any and all competitors when they’re still in the start up phases. So a solution, the solution the EU created was a tailored law to remedy the problem. The world doesn’t need this regulation to fix the start ups that up until now have no real chance to compete against the biggest corporations ever to exist, or that begin with business plans that indicate, step five be acquired by Meta/Google.

        • Jogy

          So the whole anti-trust prosecution against Microsoft was wrong, you agree?

          • dftf

            The one thing I don't get though is why the Anti-Trust rulings don't seem to set precedents.


            Microsoft was found guilty of gaining an unfair-advantage in the browser-wars by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows... and yet today, they are okay to bundle Edge; and Apple seem to be okay to bundle Safari with macOS and iOS/iPadOS (where they also force the use of their browser-engine in all apps), and Google bundle Chrome on the vast-majority of Android phones.


            So, if the ruling is "don't bundle your own browser within your own OS", why doesn't this still apply?

            • bkkcanuck

              Actually, the guilty verdict was overturned by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals because the court had "altered the scope of liability". The Judge had also violated the code of conduct for US judges because he was doing his own little media tour WHILE hearing the case (to me that shows an inherent bias at work). The case went back down and the DOJ and Microsoft entered into an agreement, rather than go for a new trial. So the case was never properly heard, we just know that Microsoft and the DOJ tempered each of their expectations and balanced those with the risks of having a new trial.

              I do believe that Microsoft at the time was effectively a monopoly, I do believe they abused their dominance... but it was not because they bundled a browser... Bundling software and providing a complete solution - should never be against the law... but they should not compete unfairly by making / using unpublished APIs that are not available to 3rd parties, they should not block 3rd party applications, and they should not make it impossible for other companies to compete... (after finding they are a monopoly). I actually think that it should be codified that if you provide a platform and allow for 3rd party development, that your internal applications should ONLY be able to use the same public APIs available to 3rd parties... and non-core applications should be able to be uninstalled. My worry is that policy makers will get to far down in the weeds rather than just publishing what they believe should be the goal of a fair marketplace, then hand it off to expert technical staff to draw up some guidelines of what will best accomplish that without stifling real competition.

            • unkinected

              "Don't bundle your browser" was not the ruling or the lesson. There's nothing wrong with being a monopoly or bundling products. It's when you abuse that position to stifle or kill competition unfairly that it becomes a problem. That's what Microsoft was accused (and found guilty) of doing.

            • arjay

              Because the first step is the determination that you are a monopoly. If you’re not, anti-trust laws do not apply. Microsoft had such a huge share of desktop OS at the time that it was easily a monopolist. The EU rulings are not based on monopoly power.


              The downside of hoping for the EU to be the regulator is the sheer volume of insane regulations they have produced over the past couple of decades, down to the smallest and seemingly insignificant issues.