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EU Unveils New Rules to Curb Technology Companies

Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager, left, and European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton attend an EC press conference in Brussels, Dec. 15, 2020.

The Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act have just been presented in Brussels. These proposed policies aim to revise all the principles that apply to digital services within the 27 member states — from the publication of illegal content on social networks to the sale of products online.

Big Tech companies will not be allowed, for example, to stop users from uninstalling preinstalled software or apps, nor will they be able to use data from business users to compete against them.

To do so, the European Union governing body would allow fines of up to 10% of annual global revenue. Another part of the European plan is to make sure e-commerce platforms take more responsibility for their goods and services.

European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager said these new regulations are the right tools to bring "order to chaos" on the internet and to rein in the online "gatekeepers" that dominate the market.

“The two proposals, they serve one purpose: to make sure that we, as users, customers, businesses, have access to a wide choice of safe products and services online, just as well as we do in the physical world," Vestager said. "Whether from our streets or from our screens, we should be able to do our shopping in a safe manner. Whether we turn pages or we just scroll down, we should be able to choose and trust the news that we read. Of course, what is illegal offline is equally illegal online.”

After the announcement, some companies criticized the move. A spokesperson for Google said the company was concerned that the measures “seem to specifically target a handful of companies."

Thierry Breton, European commissioner for internal market, denied those allegations.

“We respect companies, but we say the bigger they are, the more obligations they may have to fulfill," Breton said. "What is important to us is that everybody is welcome in Europe, but our responsibility is to decide and give directions and rules to protect what is important to us. These are not two acts where we would say that these companies are too big, and we propose a dismantle. Not here, not on this side of the ocean.”

The coming new regulations announced in Brussels echoed the concerns over the world about the influence of big technology companies. In the United States, regulators have increased scrutiny on Google and Facebook, and antitrust cases are looming.