This November when the EU’s Digital Markets Act is set to take effect, kicking off the timer on a process that is expected to require Amazon, Google, and Meta to create platforms that are more open and interoperable by 2023. It could result in significant changes to how users can use their devices and applications, in a reminder to users that Europe regulates technology companies far more effectively than the US.
“We expect the results to be significant,” says Gerard de Graaf, EU official who was instrumental in passing the DMA at the beginning of the year. Last month, he was appointed director of a new EU headquarters in San Francisco, established partly to explain the consequences of the law for Big Tech companies. De Graaf says they will be required to up their walls.
“If you have an iPhone, you will be able to download applications not only from the App Store but from third party apps,” de Graaf says. The DMA requires the dominant platforms to allow smaller competitors to join and compel Meta’s WhatsApp to accept messages from rival apps such as Signal or Telegram and block Amazon, Apple, and Google from referencing their applications and services.
While the DMA will be in force this week, tech companies are required to wait to comply. This is because the EU first needs to determine what companies are big and well-established enough to qualify in the category of “gatekeepers” subject to the strictest regulations. De Graaf expects that about twelve companies will fall included in the group and will be revealed at the beginning of the year. The gatekeepers will then be given six months to comply.
As with the EU’s protection of privacy, GDPR, the DMA is likely to change how tech platforms assist users outside of the 400 million internet users in the EU, as specific compliance details can be readily implemented across the globe.
Tech companies are also expected to confront the second primary EU law, the Digital Services Act, which requires the risk assessment of certain algorithms and disclosures regarding automated decision-making. It also could force social networks such as TikTok to reveal their data to external scrutiny. The law will be implemented in phases, and the biggest platforms on the internet are expected to comply by mid-2024. In addition, it is believed that the EU will also be looking at passing specific guidelines for artificial intelligence that could prohibit certain technology applications.
De Graaf argues that stricter rules for tech giants are necessary to defend businesses and people from unfair conduct and enable society to enjoy the full benefit of technology. He has been vocal about the non-binding AI Bill of Rights recently announced by the White House, saying that the absence of firm regulations could undermine public faith in technology. “If our citizens lose trust in AI because they believe it discriminates against them and leads to outcomes that are harmful to their lives,” the author declares, “they are going to shun AI, and it will never be successful.”