New EU laws will take on dominance of Big Tech

Ambition is to to increase platforms’ responsibility for illegal content and take on digital gatekeepers”

New European Union rules will seek to crack down on illegal online content while ending the excessive dominance of large technology companies skewing competition, EU cmmissioners Margrethe Vestager and Thierry Bretonhave written in the Irish Times.Two packages of legislation due to be unveiled on December 15th, the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, will increase responsibilities on online platforms to prevent the hosting of illegal content, while tackling "unfair behaviour from digital gatekeepers".

The move is the latest bid by the commission to rein in powerful digital companies, which Vestager accuses of monopolistic practices that tilt the market, perpetuating their dominance while reducing consumer choice and squeezing out competition.


The stakes for Ireland are high as a major digital hub, and the much-anticipated new rules for operating in the EU market will be in for forensic scrutiny from the digital industry. As the home of so many US tech multinationals in Europe, Ireland has frequently found itself in the crosshairs of EU ambitions to take on big tech, including challenges to taxation practices in the case of Apple and criticism of the state's ability to regulate such a large and powerful industry.

The commission hopes that the rules it sets for the EU's 450 million consumers will become an international baseline standard, and argues that Europe should take the initiative to shape the online environment before other powers such as the United States or China do so.


"The business and political interests of a handful of companies should not dictate our future. Europe has to set its own terms and conditions," write the Commissioner's digital and competition czar Margrehte Vestager and Thierry Breton, who is Commissioner for the Internal Market, arguing that digital markets should be "open and contestable".

“The Digital Markets Act will more specifically target the economic behaviour of companies that have become systemically relevant. Because with size comes responsibility.

Digital gatekeepers will have to respect a number of well-defined prohibitions and obligations to avoid unfair behaviour from digital gatekeepers,” they write.


Online platforms do not have legal liability for the content they host. But the Digital Services Act will increase responsibilities on such intermediaries “wherever they are in the EU” to remove on illegal content.

The act will better define what constitutes illegal content, including hate speech, terrorism, child pornography, and the sale of illegal or counterfeit products, and set out what action must be taken against it.

Together, the new rules seek to solve issues ranging from “online bullying, hate speech, fake news, skewed elections, unsafe or counterfeited goods, being choked off from business opportunities if you’re a small player”, the Commissioners write.

The proposals, which are drawn up in consultation with member states, require the approval of national governments and the European Parliament to become law.

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O'Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times