MEPs pledge to end the ‘digital Wild West’ of social media platforms

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MEPs pledged to end the “digital Wild West” of big platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, with a set of rules designed to regulate the online space.

MEPs from all political parties in the European Parliament have taken the first step in shaping the collective digital future of the European Union, by voting in favor of a digital services bill.

“We have come together to end the digital Wild West where the big platforms are setting the rules right now and we have too much criminal content going viral,” said shadow rapporteur Arba Kokalari (PPE).

The draft DSA rules were approved by the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) by 36 votes in favor, 7 votes against and 2 abstentions. The EP plenary will vote on the amended DSA proposal in January 2022 – if approved, then negotiations will begin with the French Presidency of the European Council.

The DSA aims to address much of modern day-to-day life, including the way people purchase goods and services, communicate, access information, or interact on social media. It updates the rules that govern digital services through innovation and legal certainty.

The key elements of the proposal are the new liability rules for online intermediation services (platforms), the ‘notice and action’ measures to remove content and the updated rules governing e-commerce or targeted advertising .

MEPs included stricter guarantees to ensure the non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory treatment of notifications and respect for fundamental rights, including freedom of expression.

The rapporteur for this project, Christel Schaldemose (S&D) said: “We are now democratically calling for our online environment. DSA is bringing EU technology regulation into the 21st century and it is high time. Intermediate services shape our lives – from the way we meet our significant other, where we buy our Christmas presents, to the way we read the news.

“However, the growing influence of the online environment in our lives is not just for the better: algorithms challenge our democracies by spreading hatred and division, tech giants are defying our level playing field and online marketplaces are defying our standards of consumer protection and product safety. This has to stop. For this reason, we are building a new framework, so that what is illegal offline is also illegal online.

The DSA will also give a clear definition of the rules of responsibility and accountability of providers of intermediary services and online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces.

Very large online platforms (VLOPs) will be subject to specific obligations due to the particular risks they present in the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content.

The DSA includes measures to combat the proliferation of illegal goods, services or content online. At the same time, the rules should improve the accountability and transparency of the algorithms used by these very large online platforms.

The bill contains provisions on risk assessments, risk mitigation measures, independent audits and so-called “referral systems” – the algorithms that determine what users see.

MEPs have tightened up provisions to ensure that online platforms like Facebook are transparent about how these algorithms work and to make them more accountable for the decisions they make. It also helps tackle harmful content, which might not be illegal, and the spread of disinformation.

The DSA exempts micro and small businesses from enormous data processing requirements and prohibits online platforms from using deceitful or inciting techniques to influence user behavior through “dark role models”.


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