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EU’s Regulatory Template for Nigeria

The European Union on Tuesday released a list of 19 companies that will be placed under stricter regulatory control through its Digital Service Act (DSA). The companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and 17 others, are classified as very large online platforms (VLOPs) or very large online search engines (VLOSEs) and will now be placed under closer monitoring by EU regulators.

Other companies on the list include Alibaba’s AliExpress, Amazon Marketplace, Apple AppStore, Booking.com, Google Play, Google Maps, Google Shopping, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Wikipedia, YouTube, Zalando, Bing, and Google Search. These platforms now have four months to comply with the rules under the DSA umbrella. This includes giving internet users information on why they are being recommended certain websites or other details, and the possibility to opt-out. All ads on these platforms will also have to include a label on who paid for them.

Also, contracts with terms and conditions will have to have a summary in “plain language” and in the different languages of the countries they are operating in. Implications of non-compliance Failure to implement these measures could lead to fines of up to 6% of the firm’s global turnover and, ultimately, could lead to a temporary ban from operating in the region. European regulators have previously warned Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter, that his firm faces significant amounts of work to comply with the new rulebook.

Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, told Politico Europe that these companies “will not be able to act as if they were too big to care.” He added in a statement Tuesday: “The countdown is starting for 19 very large online platforms and search engines to fully comply with the special obligations that the Digital Services Act imposes on them.”

The Digital Service Act The Digital Service Act (DSA) came into force in November 2022 and will be directly applicable across the EU from 17th February 2024.

Although some provisions became applicable upon passage of the Act, it builds on the rules of the e-Commerce Directive of 2000 and seeks to address emerging issues relating to online intermediaries. It was enacted to create a safer digital space in which the fundamental rights of all users of digital services are protected, particularly, rules relating to the due diligence obligations of certain categories of providers of online platforms.

What it Means for Nigeria The EU’s Digital Service Act reinforces the recent moves by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to regulate social media and internet companies operating in the country. The agency last year introduced the Code of Practice for Interactive Computer Service Platforms/Internet Intermediaries and Conditions for Operating in Nigeria.

While the code was strongly criticized by many Nigerians as an attempt to deprive Nigerians of their fundamental human rights, Nigeria may also need to come up with a substantive law guiding the operations of these companies in the country to protect citizens from unfair practices.

The template for regulating large social media companies could be easily replicated by other countries with large social media followings such as Nigeria.

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