The new EU ambassador to Silicon Valley says all Big Tech platforms will be forced by the Digital Markets Act to break open their walled gardens in 2023.
The internet is expected to change forever following a new law that will take effect next week. The new law will make it very difficult for companies to become tech giants. European Union’s Digital Markets Act will come into effect on November 1 and will force many tech giants to become more open by 2023. Tech giants like Amazon, Meta, and Google are expected to become more harmonious and not closed off which will in turn bring big changes to how people can use their apps and devices. The new move shows how Europe is more actively regulating tech companies than the US.
One of the EU officials who helped pass the DMA early this year Gerard de Graaf said: “We expect the consequence to be significant” when he was explaining how the new rule will eventually affect companies. De Graaf became the director of a newly established EU office in San Francisco last month. The new office was established to help in explaining how big tech companies will be affected by the new law. The EU director also said that with the new law tech companies will eventually be forced to break down their walled garden doors.
Speaking in an emerald green conference room at the EU’s office which is located in the Irish consulate in San Francisco, De Graaf said “if you have an iPhone, you should be able to download apps not just from the App Store but from other app stores or the internet.” The new DMA will force companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon to stop preferencing their apps and services on their devices and will make it a requirement for leading platforms to allow small competitors. The DMA will also push Meta’s WhatsApp to offer a message-receiving feature from rival apps like Telegram or Signal.
The DMA will come into force next week although tech companies don’t have to start complying right away. The EU will first need to decide and identify “gatekeepers” or companies that are large and entrenched so they can be subject to the toughest rules under the Act. De Graaf believes that over a dozen of companies will be categorized as gatekeepers and that names in this group will be publicized in spring. All companies in this category will be expected to comply within six months after the announcement is made.
De Graaf has also disclosed that they are predicting a wave of lawsuits to follow to challenge the EU’s rules on tech giants but he says he has made the move to California so Silicon Valley giants are clear that the rules have changed and the EU won’t back down. He also disclosed that the European Union has in past times charged Apple, Google, and other big names through antitrust investigations which is a method that put the burden of proof on bureaucrats. With the DMA the obligation is on companies to comply with no fallbacks. De Graaff says “the key message is that negotiations are over, we’re in a compliance situation. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is.”
A previous law by the EU the digital privacy law (GDPR) also affected millions of internet users in the EU in the same way the DMA is expected to do. The DMA will guide changes in how digital platforms operate beyond 400 million internet users in the EU with some compliance details extending to other parts which will in turn make global compliance easy.
Tech companies will also be dealing with a second law the Digital Services Act which will be implemented soon. The Act will require platforms to do and provide risk assessment for some of their algorithms and disclose more about automated decision-making and could push Tik Tok and other social apps to open up their data to outside inspection. This law like the DMA will also be put into operation in phases with big online platforms required to start complying in the middle of 2024. Another issue on the EU table is the use of artificial intelligence and the body is considering introducing specific rules to govern the area.
De Graaf argues that tougher rules are needed for tech giants to follow to not only protect people and other c businesses from unfair practices but to also allow society as a whole to get the complete benefits of 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 they are going to shun AI, and it will never be successful” de Graaf said criticizing the nonbinding AI bill of Rights that was only just released by the White House.
The new offices for the EU were opened following a move by the bloc and the US to work together more on technology guidelines. De Graaf says that both the EU and US are interested in finding lasting solutions to help address the problem of chip shortages and how authoritarian governments influence technology and the internet.
De Graaf is also scheduling a trip to meet lawmakers in Sacramento, California state who he has described as trailblazers who had stood up to tech giants. Last month lawmakers passed a bill requiring companies to offer strict default settings for children and more control over how tech companies use data collected about kids.
Marlena Wisniak from the European Centre for Not for Profit Law a civil liberties group believes the EU’s presence in the very backyard of the tech industry is the EU’s proof of seriousness in shaping global tech policy and says that de Graaf must use some of EU’s power to benefit people outside the EU and US but who still rely on Big Tech platforms.
Wisniak hopes that the digital envoy of the EU will avoid falling into previous traps that have disrupted Silicon Valley’s newcomer’s plans. The place houses fewer policy experts but more entrepreneurs and executives. Wisniak says “I hope that EU policymakers don’t get dazzled by the tech hype. The tech bro narrative is real.