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EU commissioner calls for tighter regulation of American Big Tech

Europe’s dependence on American Big Tech during the COVID-19 crisis has been a “wake up call” and the fact that these companies were strengthened by the pandemic makes it more urgent to ensure that everyone “plays according to the same rules in digital markets”, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and its Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. She added that she did not begrudge companies their success, but wants “to prevent the monopoly-like situations” seen with Amazon, Google and Facebook from being repeated. For this, “we need instruments with which we can prevent markets from tipping over” where only one company controls the market, she said in the interview.

The European Commission had launched a public consultation on the Digital Services Act on June 2 that seeks to regulate both EU and non-EU intermediaries operating in the trading bloc, as well as “address the issue of the level playing field in European digital markets, where currently a few large online platforms act as gatekeepers”. To preserve competition, the Commission is considering both additional general rules for all platforms “of a certain scale” and specific regulatory obligations for specific gatekeepers, such as “non-personal data access obligations, specific requirements regarding personal data portability, or interoperability requirements”. The consultation is open until September 8.

Vestager, a Danish social liberal, reportedly said that internet must be regulated at a European level in a way that encourages competition, but retains democracy and rejects “the negative consequences of unregulated capitalism”. Her vision of a regulated internet differs “significantly” from that in the US or China. She is responsible for EC’s work on digital taxation and for coordinating a European strategy on data.

In February, after a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Vestager, EC Commissioner for internal markets Theirry Breton had warned online platforms that they could face tougher penalties and rules in the EU if they did not adequately curb hate speech and disinformation, Deutsche Welle reported.

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