By Sam Schechner and Kim Mackrael

 

BRUSSELS -- The world's most far-reaching digital-content law will oblige 19 social media, search and ecommerce services to comply with strict new rules by late August.

Companies including Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., Meta Platforms Inc. and Alphabet Inc.'s Google had one or more of their services listed Tuesday as "very large" online platforms or search engines by the European Union's executive arm. The designations, which also include Bytedance Ltd.'s TikTok and Twitter Inc., mean the clock starts on a four-month countdown to get into compliance with a slew of rules in the new law, called the Digital Services Act.

The law is the biggest overhaul in the West's approach to online content in more than a generation, rewiring the concept of online responsibility as it has prevailed since the dawn of the internet.

Under prior laws, like the U.S.'s Section 230, companies could generally escape liability from content their users posted, provided they took efforts to respond to certain types of problematic content when flagged. But under the EU's new law, companies will need to conduct regular assessments to determine all the possible risks their systems could pose either to individual people or pillars of civic life, such as free expression or electoral participation--and show regulators they're addressing them with robust systems.

The services listed on Tuesday were named in large part because they each had declared in February that they had more than 45 million active users in the EU each month, meaning they touch at least 10% of the bloc's population. Less stringent requirements for services that fall below this threshold will apply next year, enforced by national regulators in the country where a company has its main EU headquarters.

Violators face fines of up to 6% of their global annual revenue or 30 million euros ($33.1 million), whichever is higher. The law includes the potential to block a platform's services in case of certain repeated infringements.

 

Write to Sam Schechner at Sam.Schechner@wsj.com and to Kim Mackrael at kim.mackrael@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 25, 2023 09:45 ET (13:45 GMT)

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