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EU: Large TV platforms must clearly declare ads and 'recommendations'

01 May 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

The European Commission has given 19 platforms 4 months to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA) under which "recommendations" and ads must be clearly labeled.

Users of Smart TVs and other online platforms are getting an increasing number of so-called recommendations and ads that promote content, products and services. However, it is not always clear if a company has paid the platform to promote such items, if it is based on user profiling, or something else.

For example, Google TV, which is found in TVs from Sony, TCL, Philips, Xiaomi and other brands, is built on recommendations and ads where partners can pay Google to promote their content or services directly on the homescreen.

 Also read: Google TV now shows ads for products other than shows/movies

Google TV ads

Google TV's ads and recommendations. Photo: Google

19 very large players

The EU wants to "empower and protect users online" by making large platforms more transparent and accountable. This extends to content moderation on social media and search results on search engines. In the first round, the EU has designated 17 Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and 2 Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) that reach at least 45 million monthly active users: Very Large Online Platforms:
  • Alibaba AliExpress
  • Amazon Store
  • Apple AppStore
  • Facebook
  • Google Play
  • Google Maps
  • Google Shopping
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • TikTok
  • Twitter
  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube
  • Zalando Very Large Online Search Engines:
  • Bing
  • Google Search

    Must comply within 4 months

    Two of these operate directly in the TV space; Apple and Google. Apple argues that since the Apple TV's tvOS App Store has only 1 million monthly active users in Europe, tvOS does not fall under the DSA rules, however, it will apply the DSA rules voluntarily to all of its app stores (iOS, iPadOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS). Google has disclosed that there are 275 million monthly active users in the Google Play Store in Europe, and the company is seemingly pooling all of its platforms – mobile, tablet, TV – into this number. - "Following their designation, the companies will now have to comply, within four months, with the full set of new obligations under the DSA," the EU announced. Smart TV platforms from LG, Samsung and others do not fall under the definition of a VLOP, but it is likely that the EU will later expand its framework to include smaller platforms, too. - "The whole logic of our rules is to ensure that technology serves people and the societies that we live in - not the other way around. The Digital Services Act will bring about meaningful transparency and accountability of platforms and search engines and give consumers more control over their online life. The designations made today are a huge step forward to making that happen," said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

    EU's Digital Services Act (DSA)

    The following will apply to the 17 Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and 2 Very Large Online Search Engines. They will have to comply within four months: More user empowerment:
  • Users will get clear information on why they are recommended certain information and will have the right to opt-out from recommendation systems based on profiling;
  • Users will be able to report illegal content easily and platforms have to process such reports diligently;
  • Advertisements cannot be displayed based on the sensitive data of the user (such as ethnic origin, political opinions or sexual orientation);
  • Platforms need to label all ads and inform users on who is promoting them;
  • Platforms need to provide an easily understandable, plain-language summary of their terms and conditions, in the languages of the Member States where they operate. Strong protection of minors:
  • Platforms will have to redesign their systems to ensure a high level of privacy, security, and safety of minors;
  • Targeted advertising based on profiling towards children is no longer permitted;
  • Special risk assessments including for negative effects on mental health will have to be provided to the Commission 4 months after designation and made public at the latest a year later;
  • Platforms will have to redesign their services, including their interfaces, recommender systems, terms and conditions, to mitigate these risks. More diligent content moderation, less disinformation:
  • Platforms and search engines need to take measures to address risks linked to the dissemination of illegal content online and to negative effects on freedom of expression and information;
  • Platforms need to have clear terms and conditions and enforce them diligently and non-arbitrarily;
  • Platforms need to have a mechanism for users to flag illegal content and act upon notifications expeditiously;
  • Platforms need to analyse their specific risks, and put in place mitigation measures – for instance, to address the spread of disinformation and inauthentic use of their service. More transparency and accountability:
  • Platforms need to ensure that their risk assessments and their compliance with all the DSA obligations are externally and independently audited;
  • They will have to give access to publicly available data to researchers; later on, a special mechanism for vetted researchers will be established;
  • They will need to publish repositories of all the ads served on their interface;
  • Platforms need to publish transparency reports on content moderation decisions and risk management.
  • FlatpanelsHD
    - Source: EU
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