Stronger rules to tackle illegal content online, a safer Internet for consumers and the protection of basic rights online. These are the main points of the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament calling on the Commission to address and tackle current shortcomings in the online environment in its Digital Services Act (DSA) package, due to be presented in December.
Current European rules in this area have largely remained unchanged since the e-Commerce Directive was adopted in 2000. With the next package, the European Union aspires, on the one hand, to structure the digital economy at European level and, on the other, to set standards for the rest of the world.
Consequently, Parliament has called for all providers established in third countries to adhere to the rules of the Digital Services Act when their services are also aimed at consumers or users within the European Union. A mechanism should therefore be established to allow users to notify online intermediaries of potentially illegal content or activities. Through this tool they would have be able to react more quickly and transparently to the activities undertaken and reported. Furthermore, MEPs have proposed that the application of content moderation measures should only apply to illegal content as defined by EU or national law, without extending it to merely harmful content. It was recalled that the legislative framework should include proportionate obligations for all sectors and all enterprises, including startups. Finally, users should have the right of referral to a fair and independent dispute settlement body. MEPs stressed that the only body competent to make a judgment on the legality of user-generated content must be made by an independent judiciary and not a private commercial entity.
Another point that should be considered is the media and digital literacy of users to prevent the dissemination of harmful and misinformation-based content. MEP Alex Agius Saliba also stressed that “the Commission must, and should, introduce in the DSA the principle that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online, together with consumer protection and also user—safety principles “. In addition, the Parliament called for the introduction of the ‘Know Your Business Customer’ principle where platforms should check and block fraudulent companies that use their services to sell illegal and unsafe products.
MEPs suggested that the Commission should introduce a regulatory framework that would give users greater control over what they see online, being able to opt out of content curation altogether, and to make them less dependent on algorithms. They call for a stricter regulation of targeted advertising in order to encourage less intrusive forms of advertising that do not depend on previous user interaction with content. Here, the Digital Services Act should also provide for the right to use digital services anonymously whenever possible. Finally, the Commission should consider the possibility of creating a European entity for monitoring and imposing fines.
The importance of keeping the debate on digital services (although very technical) as a priority was underlined by MEP Kris Peeters, who added: “The difficult challenge before us is to find the balance between digital progress and respect for fundamental rights”.