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EU Adopts Digital Markets Act, Affects Major Tech Companies

EU lawmakers have agreed to adopt the Digital Markets Act, a law that will require major messaging apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and iMessage to enable their apps to be ‘interoperable’ with other messaging services at their request, according to the EU’s official press release on the matter.

“During a close to 8-hour long trilogue (three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission), EU lawmakers agreed that the largest messaging services (such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage) will have to open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms, if they so request. Users of small or big platforms would then be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps, thus giving them more choice. As regards interoperability obligation for social networks, co-legislators agreed that such interoperability provisions will be assessed in the future.”

If the law is to pass, this could have dire consequences for companies such as Apple and their carefully interwoven ecosystem and business model. iMessage is currently exclusive to their devices, however this law would require the service to communicate with other messaging applications.

Credit: Oliver Matthys/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

In response to the agreement, a spokesperson from Apple expressed their fears over what could result if the law was to be passed.

“We remain concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users while others will prohibit us from charging for intellectual property in which we invest a great deal,” they said.

“We believe deeply in competition and in creating thriving competitive markets around the world, and we will continue to work with stakeholders throughout Europe in the hopes of mitigating these vulnerabilities.”

Will Cathcart, Meta’s head of WhatsApp also expressed concern.

“Interoperability can have benefits, but if it’s not done carefully this could cause a tragic weakening of security and privacy in Europe.”

Adding pressure to these companies, the EU will require companies to conform to the law only 6 months after the DMA is approved. This interoperability is likely to be complicated and may require intense collaboration and discussion between companies.

The EU believes that the act will prevent larger companies holding control over the industry and allow smaller companies to come forward. Furthermore, it will help to prevent misinformation based on a platforms audience and any bias that may arise as a result.

The Digital Markets Act looks to take on the monopoly of information that major tech companies have over the world. It looks to return the power of the internet back to its wider userbase.

With their acquisition of Instagram and other services, Meta has allowed for cross platform messaging in the past, even allowing users to manage texts via their Messenger app. There is proof to show that technological limitations are not the cause of platform exclusivity. In reality, these services are kept exclusive from each other to push products, such as iMessage with Apple. However as previously mentioned, the implementation of the DMA may not be easy, quick or without security risks.

Companies are unlikely to defy the legislation if it passes either. The EU states in their press release that initial infringements can be met with fines up to 10 percent of a companies global annual revenue, and that repeated offences can raise that number to 20 percent. Furthermore, the commission is authorized to prohibit a company from making acquisitions that would allow them to get around the DMA, such as buying out smaller companies that request collaboration.

Initially, the DMA also proposed a change to the way in which the Apple and Google app stores operated. Apple would have to allow users to install applications from other stores, and both Apple and Google would have to allow developers to use their own billing rather purchase via the Apple and Google stores.

It is unclear whether this is still a part of the agreement, however the EU plans to hold a press conference tomorrow addressing the DMA, and more details are likely to be released there.


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