Safeguarding internet freedoms under the Digital Services Act (DSA)

DSA General Approach strikes an adequate balance between combatting illegal content online and protecting the digital ecosystem

Brussels – 6 December 2021: On 2 December, GIGAEurope, the industry association of private investors in gigabit connectivity, with the support of the Slovenian Government Office for Digital Transformation, hosted a policy debate entitled, “Navigating the Digital Ecosystem under the Digital Services Act”.

The Digital Services Act, though mainly aimed at online platforms, impacts the entire digital ecosystem in which connectivity providers play an important role by providing trusted internet access to the digital world. The DSA builds on the Electronic Commerce Directive of 2000, in which certain key regulatory principles acted as the cornerstone for the development of the internet.

In his keynote address, Peter Geršak, State Secretary, Office for Digital Transformation, Slovenian Government, said: “The DSA proposal is an important element contributing to a more harmonised internal market and to a safer online environment. The underlying policy objective is to keep users safe from illegal goods, content or services, to protect their fundamental rights online, to restore trust in the digital space and to exploit the potential of the online platform economy, while protecting our democracies. Our task is to enact the DSA regulation, which will be both efficient in fight against illegal content, services and goods on the internet, while not hindering freedom of speech.”

Irene Roche Laguna, Deputy Head of Unit, Digital Services and Platforms, DG CONNECT, said: “The Council agrees that the conditional liability regime of the e-Commerce Directive is fit for purpose even after 20 years of internet development. For the connectivity sector, the liability exemption therefore remains. Intermediary services, even if not held liable, have a role to play nevertheless, for example through transparent terms and conditions for internet users that explain the reason for and consequences of whenever they would decide to moderate content.”

Sally Broughton Micova, Research Fellow, Centre on Regulation in Europe and Lecturer in Communications Policy and Politics, University of East Anglia (UEA), said: “The DSA uses the notion of systemic risk. It does not explicitly define the system, but it does explicitly aim to address economic and societal harms, which implies a societal system. The notion of systemic risk from a platform perspective therefore should also involve interconnections with other services, processes and institutions.”

Matthew Allison, Senior Policy Manager Data, Platforms and AI Digital Services Policy, Vodafone Group, said: “Vodafone applauds the swift work undertaken in Council and the efforts of the Slovenian Presidency to reach a General Approach on the DSA less than a year since the Commission tabled its legislative proposal. We believe the Digital Services Act presents us with a generational opportunity to update the regulatory framework for digital services in Europe. Reopening and reinterpreting key legal concepts within that framework, to ensure they are fit for purpose and reflect the reality of how content is created and shared across the digital ecosystem today, with rights and responsibilities fairly attributed to digital services providers operating within the Single Market.”

Irina Varlan, Managing Director GIGAEurope, said: “Whilst the spread of illegal content is a concern to us all, a crucial element of trusted access and broad participation in the digital economy and society, is that users need to know that their connectivity provider protects their private communications when accessing the internet or when uploading content.”

She continued: “It is reassuring that the ongoing discussions on the DSA confirm the liability regime set in the eCommerce Directive and avoid extending due diligence obligations for online platforms to connectivity providers, in a way that would be disproportionate.”

The panel was moderated by Jennifer Baker, EU Correspondent.

 

Rewatch the GIGAEurope EU Presidency Event – Safeguarding internet freedoms under the Digital Services Act (DSA)

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