Digital Service Act: Great opportunity, but still room for improvement

The ECR Group's shadow rapporteur, Polish MEP Adam Bielan, sees the adoption of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in the European Parliament as a great step forward towards better regulation in the digital space, including social media, online marketplaces and other online platforms, offering services to customers in the European Union. But in one area there is still a need to catch up.

Mr Bielan pointed out:

“The DSA is a key legislation of this term, changing the function of the digital market across the EU. My group was focused on preserving a robust digital economy in the EU during the pandemic. This wouldn’t be possible without maintaining key parts of the e-commerce initiative. We need an open internet, where users can move and speak freely and where their freedoms are respected. We will also remember that the digital market not only represents threats, but also great opportunities.”

Nevertheless, Mr. Bielan is not satisfied that social networks designated as Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) did not receive a special category in the text. The lack of a dedicated definition makes it harder to set proportionate obligations for the VLOPs section. “There is still a need for improvement in the definitions of what a ‘social network’ is in the first place. Without this, an important tool is missing in order to ensure its effectiveness. I hope that this shortcoming can be remedied in the trilogues that are to follow”, Mr Bielan concluded.

According to Mr. Bielan, there was also a need to define when platforms should step in to tackle the illegal content. There must be clarity, so that users are protected from the unilateral restriction of their freedom of expression. In this context, “it is worth pointing out that we have succeeded in introducing some provisions to challenge platform decisions on content moderation. Thanks to my group’s negotiations, the new tool will provide additional protection for users in the event of arbitrary decisions by websites. In addition to platforms’ internal complaint-handling system, users will be able to quickly and easily seek redress through the courts in their country of residence. It means that Internet users will eventually gain access to robust tools strengthening their position,” Mr Bielan explained.

The Digital Services Act, originally put forward by the European Commission on 15 December 2020, is a revision of the E-Commerce directive, providing the baseline for online marketplace operations up to date. The horizontal nature of the regulation addresses issues and regulatory gaps that have arisen over the last two decades. The new set of rules for the digital space creates a novel framework to counter the proliferation of illegal content online and gives individual users the power to challenge platforms’ arbitrary decisions.

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