Last week the European Commission launched a public consultation for the Digital Services Act (DSA), an overhaul of how the EU regulates digital platforms.
A new regulatory framework for digital platforms is long overdue. The DSA will replace the twenty year old e-Commerce Directive, which defined platforms in narrow, technical terms. When that Directive was adopted in 2000, Google had only been operating for two years. In this world, prior to social media and the platformatisation of social and economic life, the e-Commerce Directive did not preempt the emergence of powerful “gatekeepers” such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
The DSA comes amid ongoing scandals about the platforms’ data practices and inability or refusal to curb harmful content including hate speech, disinformation, and terrorist propaganda. The EU has already moved to address some of these issues with the introduction of the controversial Copyright Directive, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, and the 2018 Recommendation on countering illegal content.
Specifically, the proposed DSA will increase the platform’s liability for illegal or harmful user-generated content; establish new regulatory obligations around data use; increase transparency for online advertising; and offer fairness for small businesses operating on platforms.
The public consultation seeks feedback on the definition of a gatekeeper suggesting that the concept could be extended beyond the tech giants. The consultation is also asking for views on other issues relating to platforms including the status of gig economy workers.
The public consultation runs until September 8 and seeks feedback from individuals, businesses, online platforms, academics, and civil society.