Putting people first rather than corporate interests

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Putting people first rather than corporate interests

On 5 July 2022, the European Parliament approved the final text of its Digital Services Act (DSA), the new rule book for moderating digital content.

The DSA aims to limit the spread of illegal content online and it establishes a new set of obligations for private actors with the aim of creating a secure and safe online environment for everyone.

The DSA applies to hosting services, marketplaces, and online platforms that offer services in the European Union. It applies to all providers regardless of their place of establishment. Individuals residing in the EU will fully benefit from the DSA’s protections.

The DSA singles out Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) as well as Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs), with more than 45 million average monthly active users in the EU. It recognizes that such platforms in part control public discourse and the manipulative influence they have on people’s online behaviour. The DSA sets out:

  • Enhanced transparency rules that require online platforms to disclose the number of removal orders issued by national authorities and all notices about the presence of illegal content trusted flaggers submit or obtain by automated means.
  • Unified criteria for so-called notice-and-action procedures, the system that determines when and if platforms should be held liable for dissemination of illegal content.
  • A measure addressing deceptive design aimed at preventing all online platforms from designing and operating their interface design in a deceptive and manipulative way.
  • Strict regulation of online advertising. It establishes a ban on advertising based on profiling and using special categories of sensitive data (e.g. sexual or political orientation).
  • An obligation for all online platforms to disclose parameters of their content recommender systems to explain why people see some information more regularly than others.
  • A duty-of-care obligation for Very Large Online Platforms that includes mandatory risk assessment; deployment of mitigation of risk measures; and obligation to subject themselves to independent audits.

Properly and effectively enforced, the DSA will safeguard peoples’ rights to freedom of expression and information, freedom of thought, and the right to form an opinion freely without manipulation. It also includes better access to effective remedies.

However, the DSA is not perfect. According to IFEX (26 July 2022), “It was given a qualified welcome by IFEX members, who generally praised its strong emphasis on ensuring transparency (for example, requiring platforms to explain content moderation policies and the use of automated tools), but also raised concerns over (among other things) its failure to decentralise content curation, its lack of an explicit right for users to encryption and anonymity, and its failure to provide stronger safeguards against potentially expanding government censorship.”

Despite these caveats, any legislation that places people before corporate interests and which enhances the digital security of individuals is an improvement over the free-for-all couldn’t care-less attitude of the past decade. Now let’s make the DSA work!

Information source: accessnow.org

Photo: Cristian-Storto