European plans for online platforms: more openness, more stringent on content

Large platforms like Facebook and YouTube should give users much more influence on what they see. This is contained in plans presented by the European Commission this afternoon, but which are already in the hands of various media, including DeccEit.

Online platforms play an increasingly important role in our democracy, the Commission says, but they are hardly yet subject to European legislation.

More openness

For example, now users are still largely in the dark about why they see certain messages at the top of their timeline. Users will not see other messages until much later or even not at all. Platforms determine this through algorithms, but do not need to give openness to how those algorithms work.

The

European Commission believes that this must change. Facebook and YouTube should explain to users why certain articles or videos are recommended.

Furthermore, users should be given the opportunity to modify this. In any case, there should be the option that platforms no longer make recommendations based on a profile. Users should be able to better protect their privacy.

Illegal videos

The rules will apply to ‘very large platforms’, as the European Commission calls them. These are sites with more than 45 million users within the EU. Virtually all known social media such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok are included.

Companies also need to better track what content their users put online. For example, for illegal videos that call for violence or child pornography, users should be given the opportunity to warn the platforms about this.

Then such videos should be taken offline as soon as possible. Reports from organisations fighting against this type of illegal content should be given priority. They are given a status as ‘trusted reporter. ‘

If

a user gets caught posting illegal content over and over again, then at least a suspension follows. Someone can also be removed from the platform altogether. Users should always have the opportunity to appeal against these decisions.

Temporary crisis mode against fake news

One of the most striking passages in the proposal concerns emergencies such as disasters, terrorist attacks or pandemics. According to the European Commission, fake news is often spread in these situations. That is why the Commission wants the platforms to move into a temporary crisis mode at such times so that fake news can be disseminated less easily.

The plans will be presented this afternoon, along with other European legislation to make it clear how big digital companies such as Facebook and Google can become and what Brussels can do to combat market dominance of these companies.

After that, the plans still need to be discussed and approved by the European Parliament and the European countries. That will certainly take years to come.