EU Leaders Set to Vote on Regulation of Big Tech, Including Targeted Ads, Porn Sites

The European Union will soon vote on several different proposed measures putting regulations on large tech companies and their content.

The committee working on these rules passed regulations Tuesday restricting advertisements targeted to children and requiring porn sites to register the identities of everyone uploading content.

Lawmakers in the 27-nation bloc are also working on the Digital Markets Act, set to be voted on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Digital Services Act, expected to be voted on next month.

The Digital Markets Act would allow the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, to stop the practice of tech companies buying startups before they can become competition, known as "killer acquisition." It would also put stronger regulations on different platforms working together, stopping big companies from dominating the social media and messaging space.

If put into effect, under the Digital Markets Act, any violating company would be fined up to 20 percent of its annual income.

The Digital Services Act would require Big Tech companies to take on more responsibility for what content users put on their sites, including illegal products and services.

"We are now democratically reclaiming our online environment," EU Parliament member Christel Schaldemose told the Associated Press. "The DSA is bringing EU tech regulation into the 21st century, and it is about time."

European Union, Margrethe Vestager
The European Union’s ambitious plan to update its pioneering internet rules gained momentum Tuesday, after a key committee passed measures requiring technology companies to better police content and lawmakers prepared to vote on regulations to rein in Big Tech. Above, European Commissioner for Europe fit for the Digital Age Margrethe Vestager delivers her speech during a debate on the Digital Markets act at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, Dec.14. Jean-Francois Badias, Pool/AP Photo

The 27-nation bloc has for the past year been drafting a sweeping overhaul of regulations for digital companies, aimed at making sure tech giants like Google and Facebook, now renamed Meta, treat rivals fairly and protect users on their platforms.

The rules, which have been the subject of fierce lobbying from the tech industry, look set for approval from lawmakers, though they still face tough negotiations next year with EU bodies. The regulations, and similar ones in the United Kingdom to curb harmful online content, show Europe's role as a pacesetter for regulating the tech industry as a global movement picks up pace following whistleblower Frances Haugen's allegations that Facebook put profits ahead of safety.

The lead committee working on the Digital Services Act said Tuesday that it approved amendments before sending the draft to the full EU Parliament for a vote, expected in January.

The committee approved a ban on platforms using "dark patterns" — deceptive or nudge techniques to influence users to do things that they don't intend to.

EU officials want the Digital Markets Act to clamp down on the biggest online companies, dubbed "digital gatekeepers," by laying out a list of dos and don'ts.

With those rules, the bloc is seeking to prevent tech giants from dominating digital markets, a change from its previous practice of issuing big fines for past antitrust violations.

Google declined to comment on the EU rules. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Amazon didn't respond to requests for comment.

The Digital Markets Act's criteria for defining a gatekeeper have been tweaked to include companies earning at least 8 billion euros ($9 billion) in annual revenue in Europe, have a market value of 80 billion euros, provide services in at least three EU countries, and have 45 million users and 10,000 business users.

Violations could be punished with whopping fines: up to 6 percent of a company's annual income under the Digital Services Act and up to 20 percent under the Digital Markets Act, which could work out to billions of dollars for wealthy Silicon Valley companies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Facebook, Paris, phone
The European Union will soon vote on measures that could keep tech giants such as Facebook and Google from being "digital gatekeepers." Above, the Facebook logo is seen on the screen of an iPhone on Jan. 31, 2019 in Paris, France. Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images