EU Agrees on Law to Curb Online Ads, Strip Illegal Content

The Digital Services Act, targeting big tech firms like Apple and Meta, is viewed as a “constitution for the internet.”

AccessTimeIconApr 25, 2022 at 8:54 a.m. UTC
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:32 p.m. UTC

The European Union has agreed to new laws to curb targeted online ads, remove illegal content and impose supervision and sanctions on the largest internet platforms.

In an all-day meeting Friday that ended in the early hours of Saturday morning, lawmakers, governments and the European Commission finalized provisions for the Digital Services Act (DSA), one of a range of laws intended to bring big tech companies like Apple (AAPL) and Meta (FB) to heel.

First proposed by the commission in December 2020, the DSA aims to restrict the ability of social networks, app stores and content-sharing platforms to target ads. It also requires sites to take down illegal content. The commission will have the power to inspect the algorithms of the very largest sites and search engines – those with over 45 million European users – and to impose fines as high as 6% of annual worldwide turnover.

The final legislation also seeks to outlaw “dark patterns” – when platforms use nudges or site design to push people into unwanted actions – a practice lawmakers and governments regard as deceptive and manipulative.

“What is illegal offline, should also be seen and dealt with as illegal online,” Margrethe Vestager, the European Union commissioner responsible for digital issues, said in a video statement after the deal was finalized. “Democracy is back, helping us to get our rights and to feel safer when we’re online,” she said.

The proposals also limits targeting ads at children and those based on sensitive data such as race or sexuality.

The DSA could “become a constitution for the internet, curbing hate, polarization and disinformation,” Alexandra Geese, a Green Party lawmaker involved in the talks, said in a statement circulated shortly before the final agreement was confirmed.

In March, the EU reached a legislative deal on the related Digital Markets Act, which seeks to stop big tech players unfairly curbing competition from smaller rivals.


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Jack Schickler is a CoinDesk reporter focused on crypto regulations, based in Brussels, Belgium. He doesn’t own any crypto.

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