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Online Platforms Are Getting Out Of Control And It’s Time For The EU To Step Up, MEPs Say

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The black market, hate speech and dangerous online content: these are all products of online platforms being manipulated and misused to produce illegal services.

This is why MEPs are urging for improved legislation through three different Digital Services Act (DMA) resolutions and a Digital Markets Act (DMA) that should regulate the ever-evolving digitisation of services. 

However, before we get into the heart of these complementary acts, let’s first cover the basics.

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.

Online platforms and digital services have proved to be an indubitable asset in the EU’s internal market and cross border trading both within and outside Europe.

They have made new markets a lot more accessible which has created more subsequent business opportunities

They have also revolutionised the way people innovate, consume, communicate and access information which has contributed to economic, social and environmental sustainability.

So, why does the EU need to add more regulation to these services?

Well, as these digital services have been engaged in continuous evolution, EU regulations have not.

And so, MEPs are calling for European legislation to adapt to this new mode of production and consumption.

Besides this, online services have created a rise to significant societal and economic consequences.

But what exactly are these significant societal and economic issues?

Basically, the accelerating digitisation of society and the economy has created a situation where a few large platforms control important ecosystems in the digital economy.

“They have emerged as gatekeepers in digital markets, with the power to act as private rule-makers,” the report said.

These rules can further result in less choice for consumers and unfair conditions for businesses using these platforms.

On the other hand, digital services are being exploited by manipulative algorithmic systems to amplify the spread of disinformation that threaten fundamental rights online.

Meanwhile, another core concern is the trade and exchange of illegal goods, services and content online.

What are the three Digital Services Act resolutions and the Digital Markets Act?

The European Parliament adopted two resolutions on the basis of Article 225 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on the ‘Digital Services Act – Improving the functioning of the Single Market’ and on the ‘Digital Services Act: adapting commercial and civil law rules for commercial entities operating online’.

The European Parliament also adopted a resolution under the non-legislative procedure on the ‘Digital Services Act and fundamental rights issues posed’.

This may seem overwhelming and complex, but all three of these resolutions are complementary in several aspects.

They all include a strong call for maintaining the core principles of the e-Commerce Directive and for protecting fundamental rights in the online environment, as well as online anonymity wherever technically possible.

They call for transparency, information obligations and accountability for digital services providers and advocate for effective obligations to tackle illegal content online.

They also advocate for public oversight at EU and national level, and cooperation between authorities across jurisdictions in enforcing the law, especially when addressing cross-border matters.

Similarly, the Digital Markets Act is there to ensure that the online platforms that sometimes act as ‘gatekeepers’ in digital markets behave in a fair way. 

The DMA has established a set of criteria to determine the gatekeepers and these depend on a platform’s economic standing, intermediation positions and stability in the market. 

This act will focus on regulating online gatekeepers to ensure that businesses who depend on their platforms to offer their services will have a more fair environment. 

It will also increase opportunities for competition with new innovators and technology start-ups, while also giving consumers a larger number of choices of services with reasonable prices. 

What does this have to do with Malta?

Maltese MEP Alex Agius Saliba was involved in the discussions surrounding these 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.

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Ana’s a university student who loves a heated debate, she’s very passionate about humanitarian issues and justice. In her free time you’ll probably catch her binge watching way too many TV shows or thinking about her next meal.

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