The European Parliament on Tuesday ratified landmark laws that will more closely regulate Big Tech and curb illegal content online, as the EU seeks to bring order to the internet “Wild West”.
MEPs approved the final versions of the Digital Markets Act, focused on ending monopolistic practices of tech giants, and the Digital Services Act, which toughens the scrutiny and consequences for platforms when they host banned content.
“With the legislative package, the European Parliament has ushered in a new era of tech regulation,” said German MEP Andreas Schwab, a key backer of the laws.
The DMA will have major consequences for Google, Meta and Apple, the online “gate-keepers” that must now do business according to a list of do’s and don’ts intended to make sure smaller competitors can survive.
That text passed with 588 votes in favour and only 11 against with 31 abstentions in a sign of the massive apprehension towards tech giants across the political spectrum.
The DSA will target a wider range of internet actors and aims to ensure real consequences for companies that fall short of controlling hate speech, disinformation and child sexual abuse images.
The digital world “has developed a bit like a western movie, there were no real rules of the game, but now there is a new sheriff in town”, said Danish MEP Christel Schaldemose.
It also passed easily with 539 votes in favour, 54 against and 30 abstentions.
Both laws now require the final approval by the EU’s 27 member states, which should be a formality.
The legislations had faced lobbying from the tech companies and intense debate over the extent of freedom of speech.
Now the big question is over enforcement with worries that the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm in Brussels, lacks the means to give sharp teeth to its new powers.
EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton downplayed the problem, insisting that teams dedicated to enforcement, in conjunction with national regulators, would be up to the task.
“There will be a before and an after DSA and DMA,” he said.