On December 15, the European Commission presented its regulatory proposal on a single market for digital services (known as the Digital Services Act), a common set of rules on intermediaries’ obligations and accountability across the digital single market.
This is historic legislation, which aims to better protect consumers and their fundamental rights online, while establishing powerful transparency and a clear accountability framework for online platforms as well as fostering innovation, growth and competitiveness within the single market.
The most relevant thing about the new package of measures is its proportionality, as the obligations of different actors match their respective role, size and impact in the online ecosystem. In this sense, the greatest obligations affect those defined as “very large online platforms”, that is, those that reach 10% of the 450 million European users.
These large platforms will need to implement transparency measures on the algorithms used for recommendations and to exchange data with administrations and researchers to examine how they work and understand the risks to society and to fundamental rights. In addition, they will need to have independent audits of their risk management systems.
Likewise, the other major legislation announced by the Commission, the Digital Markets Act, also aims to ensure that the large platforms that act as “gatekeepers” in digital markets behave in a fair way online. These platforms will no longer be able to carry out practices such as discriminating in favour of their own services and products – precisely the charge against Amazon – or not allowing their business users to access the data they generate when using the gatekeeper’s platform. These anti-competitive practices on the part of certain large platforms are already being investigated by the European Commission.
Users are also key players in the development of the new legislation, as it is intended to strengthen real protection of their fundamental rights. Seventy percent of respondents to the public consultation on the Digital Services Act believe that disinformation is spread by manipulating algorithmic processes on online platforms. In this sense, the new legislation will force large platforms to provide clear information on why content is recommended to users. Additionally, the users’ right to opt-out from content recommendations based on profiling is strengthened.
Both the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act represent important steps toward achieving a fairer and more equitable digital transition, respectful of European citizens and companies. This is a key step toward the conception of the European digital market advocated by the EADT: in full competition, on equal terms, and without abuses of power.