Big Tech companies will face tougher regulations in Europe, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Speaking at Europe’s largest tech conference Web Summit, which this year is being held virtually, Ursula von der Leyen said that the pandemic has been a “catalyst for innovation”, with the value of European tech companies rising by almost 50%.
In response to the pandemic, the European Commission will put 20% of its Next Generation EU fund in digital investment.
However, while the tech industry has brought many benefits to the European economy, it has also brought with it potentially harmful impacts, with many calling for a rethink of how Big Tech is regulated.
Von der Leyen announced that the European Commission would be “rewriting the rule book for our digital market” with tougher rules particularly around the sale of unsafe products online and the spread hate speech.
Von der Leyen referred to herself as a “tech optimist,” but emphasised that the “largest social media platforms must have greater scrutiny and responsibility”.
She explained that the new rules will target illegal content posted on social media platforms, with increased pressure on social media giants to reign in the spread of misinformation.
“No one expects all digital platforms to check all the user content that they host. This would be a threat to everyone’s freedom to speak their mind,” she said. “If illegal content is notified by the competent national authorities, it must be taken down.”
The new regulation will take the form of the Digital Services Act, which is due to come into force next week, which is designed to foster innovation and competitiveness of the European online environment, but also provide a set of rules for the responsibilities of digital services to address the risks faced by their users.
Von der Leyen said:
“With greater power and social influence should come greater responsibility. A responsibility not just to act when notified but also a responsibility to assess the risks of their advertising system or their content moderation. A responsibility about how those systems work. A responsibility to accept scrutiny and audit.”