Many of the EU rules governing the Internet date back to 2000. The European Union’s E-Commerce Directive (ECD) came into force at the turn of the millenium, before platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube even existed (and when Amazon and Google were still in their infancy). In the intervening two decades since the ECD was introduced, the way we use the Internet has changed in ways that were difficult to anticipate in the 1990s.
In recent years, the EU has been updating its Internet rules. New legislation covering personal data was introduced in 2018 via the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which advocates say greatly strengthened the protection of consumer data. Now the EU is working on a package of legislation called the Digital Services Act (DSA), which has the potential to be even more significant in terms of how the Internet is governed. The DSA is likely to cover everything from liability for illegal content, to transparency in how algorithms make decisions, to promoting free and fair competition, to product safety, employment, counterfeit goods, and even advertising. The DSA is still in the early stages of the legislative process, with the first draft of the new law expected in December.
Want to learn more about the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act package? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Daniel, who thinks it’s important to ask who benefits when new rules are proposed for the internet. Do artists and other content creators benefit? Or web browsers? Or large internet platforms? Who stands to benefit in the case of the DSA?
To get a response, we put Daniel’s comment to Karen Melchior, an MEP with the Danish Social Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre) and member of the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs. Who does she think stands to benefit from the Digital Services Act?
For another perspective, we also put Daniel’s comment to Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), an independent and non-profit policy research think tank dedicated to trade policy and other international economic policy issues of importance to Europe. What would he say?
We also put the same comment to Karina Stan, Director of EU Policy and Head of Brussels Office at the Developers Alliance, a non-profit global membership organization supporting developers as creators, innovators and entrepreneurs. How would she respond?
One controversial aspect of the DSA is the question of whether platforms should be liable for illegal content uploaded by users (particularly if they have been told to take that content down by a Member State court). Critics argue that platforms deal with so much content each day that they will err on the side of caution, and may start pre-screening user content via “upload filters” (algorithms designed to weed out illegal content before it is published), likely leading to many false positives.
We had a comment along these lines from Julia, who argues that upload filters “are censorship.” How do we protect freedom of speech online while also ensuring illegal content is taken down effectively? How would Karen Melchior MEP respond?
What would Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), say to Julia?
How would Karina Stan from the Developers Alliance react?
Finally, we had a comment come in from Shadow, who writes: “Owning a website or online platform doesn’t give you the right over other people’s constitutionally protected rights.” Will platforms have to decide whether content is illegal or not? How would Karen Melchior reply?
What would Hosuk Lee-Makiyama say?
Last but not least, what does Karina Stan think?
Do we need new rules for the internet? Who stands to benefit from the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act (DSA)? How can we take down illegal content without harming free speech? Will platforms have to decide whether content is illegal or not? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash
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