Earlier this month, the European Union approved legislation aimed at regulating social media platforms: the Digital Services Act. The law will take effect in 2024, in time for the next U.S. presidential elections, and promises big shifts in how online speech is refereed not just in Europe, but also here at home. The law, among other requirements, places substantial content moderation expectations on large social media firms—many based in the U.S.—which include limiting false information, hate speech, and extremism.
It’s not clear how social media firms will adapt to the law, but the fines they will face for failing to comply will be massive. Firms can be fined up to six percent of their annual revenue—that’s $11 billion for Google and $7 billion for Meta. Essentially, the EU has created a significant new legal incentive for firms to regulate expression on their platforms.
The law, while written to protect EU residents, will almost certainly lead social media firms to change their moderation policies worldwide. Thus, with the DSA, the EU will effectively be doing what the First Amendment ostensibly prohibits our own government from doing: regulating the editorial judgments made by social media platforms on which Americans communicate with each other.link