LONDON — Amazon is disputing its status as a big online platform that needs to face stricter scrutiny under European Union digital rules taking effect next month, the first Silicon Valley tech giant to push back on the pioneering new standards.
The online retailer filed a legal challenge with a top European Union court, arguing it’s being treated unfairly by being designated a “very large online platform” under the 27-nation bloc’s sweeping Digital Services Act.
Amazon, whose filing to the European General Court was made available Tuesday, is the second company to protest the classification. German online retailer Zalando filed a legal claim two weeks ago with a similar argument.
The Digital Services Act imposes new obligations on the biggest tech companies to keep users safe from illegal content and dodgy products, with violations punishable by potentially billions in fines or even a ban on operating in the EU.
The rules, which will take effect on Aug. 25, are expected to help Europe maintain its place as standard setter in global efforts to rein in the power of social media companies and other digital platforms.
Seattle-based Amazon is one of 19 companies classed as the largest online platforms and search engines under the DSA, which means they will have to better police their services to protect European users from hate speech, disinformation and other harmful online content.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, declined to comment directly on the case, saying it would defend its position in court.
Amazon said it supports the DSA’s aims of tackling systemic online risks but doesn’t agree that it fits the description of a “very large online platform” that earns revenue primarily through advertising and distributes “speech and information.”
“The vast majority of our revenue comes from our retail business, we are not the largest retailer in any of the EU countries where we operate,” the company said in a statement.
Amazon said it feels it’s being “unfairly singled out” because none of the largest retailers in each European country where it operates has been similarly designated as a very large platform.
The commission said the DSA’s scope is clear and “defined to cover all platforms that expose their users to content, including the sale of products or services, which can be illegal.”
“For marketplaces as for social networks, very wide user reach increases the risks and the platforms’ responsibilities to address them,” it said.
German e-commerce platform Zalando was the first to file a legal challenge against the DSA. In its claim last month, the company, which sells designer shoes and clothing, argued that it doesn’t pose a “systemic risk” of spreading harmful or illegal content from third parties.
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