Global Partners Digital, supported by Ranking Digital Rights, has responded to a consultation initiated by the European Commission to inform its development of the proposed Digital Services Act. The Act will create a new regulatory framework for digital services and will replace the current framework established by the e-Commerce Directive.
The consultation paper invited stakeholders to respond to a series of questions on potential new responsibilities of digital services to address both illegal and harmful forms of content online. In our submission, we recognise the desire of the European Commission to propose new and revised rules to deepen the Single Market for Digital Services, by increasing and harmonising the responsibilities of online platforms and reinforce the oversight over platforms’ content policies in the EU. However, we are concerned that certain aspects of a new or revised regulatory framework may pose risks to individuals’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and could be inconsistent with EU member states international human rights obligations and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
In our submission, we make a number of recommendations to the Commission, which include:
- Considering non-regulatory means of tackling legal but harmful forms of content (such as disinformation), before resorting to new or revised obligations on platforms. We highlight specific concerns around freedom of expression which may arise from new responsibilities to filter, detect or remove vaguely defined forms of legal but harmful content.
- Only imposing new responsibilities on online platforms when there is evidence of harm being caused or facilitated by their services. If measures are to be imposed, the most appropriate and proportionate measures should directly relate to ensuring clarity over their terms of service, and transparency over their enforcement and the use of algorithms.
- Ensuring that any revisions to the existing intermediary liability regime are clear to stakeholders, set out a coherent categorisation of services, and provide sufficient protections to all relevant parts of the ecosystem. We also highlight the benefits of maintaining a prohibition on general monitoring and advocate for a Good Samaritan clause to correct disincentives and encourage service providers to take proactive measures against illegal activities.
This consultation process—which has already closed—will inform the development of the Digital Services Act. No timeline has yet been outlined for when the EU will respond to the results of the consultation.
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