It is of course no coincidence that Google has suddenly put so much effort into transparency lately, because the major online platforms have to make a series of adjustments under pressure from the European Digital Services Act. Europe wants to gain more control over the big tech companies and what users in the European Union see online.
The new law consists of 92 articles with provisions that tech companies must comply with. These range from restrictions on targeted, personalised advertisements to new annual reports in which tech companies must identify the risks of their platforms, for example in terms of disinformation or consequences for mental health. At Meta and TikTok alone, more than 1000 employees are already working to ensure that the platforms comply with the new law, to prevent them from running into billions of fines.
The new law applies to nineteen platforms from sixteen companies, with at least 45 million monthly active users in the EU. So Amazon’s platforms and Apple’s App Store also fall under this.
So from today you can turn off your personalized timeline on Instagram, Facebook or TikTok, which is full of more of the same, based on your preferences. Because the EU wants it to be easier for users to put their phone away. The platforms, on the other hand, want users to stay on their platform as long as possible and continue to see the ads.
You can see that now too. It is not made easy for users: to be able to turn off your personalised feeds, you have to go through several steps with TikTok, for example. Things are a bit easier with Facebook and Instagram, but you can see that the large platforms are now looking at how far they can go before they are reprimanded.
In addition, tech companies are allowed to use less data for targeted advertising. For minors, they can only use age and location. For adults, they are no longer allowed to use data about political opinions or sexuality.
The biggest change, however, is in the supervision of the companies. The companies must carry out their own risk assessment and share it with the EU. Today is the deadline for the first report.
In short, tech companies must start thinking about their influence on society, for example when it comes to illegal content, hate speech, influencing the public debate or health. If the negative effects are large, they may be forced to make adjustments by removing content or adjusting the algorithm.
The EU is very ambitious, but the question is whether it really succeeds in getting a better grip on the tech companies. After all, they have virtually unlimited financial resources to take on years of legal battle.