MEPs have agreed to a draft set of measures set to tackle illegal content online, to regulate platforms, and improve content moderation. This, by way of the Digital Services Act (DSA).
MEPs had been pressing for improved legislation since late last year. This by way of three different DSA resolutions and a Digital Markets Act (DMA).
If ease of access has thought us anything, it’s that the black market, hate speech, and dangerous content are all products of platforms being manipulated and misused to produce illegal services.
Following the agreement, Parliament can now enter into negotiations with the European Council, which is currently under the French presidency, to put a tighter hold on digital services
Following the vote, Christel Schaldemose – the leader of the Parliament’s negotiating team had this to say:
“Online platforms have become increasingly important in our daily life, bringing new platforms have become increasingly important in our daily lives, bringing new opportunities, but also new risks.”
“It is our duty to ensure that what is illegal offline is illegal online. We need to ensure that we put in place digital rules to the benefit of consumers and citizens.
But what are digital services?
Digital services refer to any service that is delivered over the internet or an electronic network with a supply that is generally automated and involves minimal human intervention.
Take online shopping, internet banking, social networks, music, and movie streaming – these are all examples of digital services that use online platforms as a means to make the use of their products more efficient or convenient for customers.
It’s accelerated the digitisation of society and the economy, creating new opportunities for people across the world. But it’s also created a situation where a few large platforms control the digital economy.
But it’s also created a winner-takes-all dynamic where a few private companies act as gatekeepers and rule-makers.
Left unchecked, it can and will hurt consumers like us, in the long run.
The aims of the directive are predominantly two-fold.
1. To remove illegal content and prevent the spread of information
The DSA will establish a ‘notice and action’ mechanism, as well as safeguards for the removal of illegal products, services, or online content.
Providers of hosting services should ‘act on receipt of such a notice without undue delay, taking into account the type of illegal content that is being notified and the urgency of taking action.’
Online marketplaces must ensure that consumers can purchase safe products online, strengthening the obligation to trace traders.
2. To regulate very large platforms
Large online platforms will be subject to obligations due to the particular risks they pose regarding the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content.
The DSA would help to tackle harmful content (which may not necessarily be ‘illegal’ in the conventional sense) and the spread of disinformation by including provisions on mandatory risk assessments, risk mitigation measures, independent audits, and the transparency of so-called ‘recommender systems’, which are, in other words, algorithms that determine what users can see.
How does this affect Malta?
Late last year, Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba was involved in the discussions surrounding the acts and while he appreciates the necessity of these platforms, he said that the DSA and the DMA are essential to ensure that the “pursuit of profit does not endanger our democratic societies”.
“Platforms are essential tools for the circulation of information and communication. Still, at the same time, they have also facilitated a flood of disinformation and of angry, hateful, fake, and polarising sensationalist content that erodes public trust,” Saliba told Lovin Malta.
“ Too often, algorithms push disinformation content into virality to create traffic and monetisation for the platform,” he continued.
Saliba concluded by commending the measures that these two proposals have already introduced, such as transparency and accountability of algorithmic and recommendation systems, along with advertising models.
These tackle illegal content and subsequently combat misinformation indirectly.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
Do you feel that online content should be more tightly regulated?