MEPs stop short of a ban on targeted ads, but would stop the use of special category personal information for targeting.
The European Parliament has agreed its position on the draft Digital Services Act which contains measures to tackle illegal content, to ensure platforms are held accountable for their algorithms, and improve content moderation. The text will be used as the mandate to negotiate with the French presidency of the Council, representing member states.
Removing illegal content and preventing the spread of disinformation
The proposed Digital Services Act defines clear responsibilities and accountability for providers of intermediary services, and in particular online platforms, such as social media and marketplaces.
It also establishes a “notice and action” mechanism, as well as provisions about the removal of illegal products, services or content online. The proposal says that providers of hosting services should act on receipt of such a notice “without undue delay, taking into account the type of illegal content that is being notified and the urgency of taking action”. The text also includes stronger safeguards to ensure notices are processed in a non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory manner and with respect for fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression.
The text also requires online marketplaces to ensure that consumers can purchase safe products online, strengthening the obligation to trace traders (the “Know Your Business Customer” principle).
Additional obligations for very large platforms
Very large online platforms (VLOPs) will be subject to specific obligations due to the particular risks they pose regarding the dissemination of both illegal and harmful content. The DSA would help to tackle harmful content (which might not be illegal) and the spread of disinformation by including provisions on mandatory risk assessments, risk mitigation measures, independent audits and the transparency of so-called “recommender systems” (algorithms that determine what users see).
Other key points
Parliament introduced several changes to the European’s Commission proposal, including on:
Further amendments approved in plenary relate to the need for providers to respect in their terms and conditions the freedom of expression and freedom and pluralism of the media, as well as a new provision on the right to use and pay for digital services anonymously.
The EU consumer group BEUC has issued its opinion on the Parliament’s position, saying that “it fails to hit the heights needed to transform the situation fully to address consumers’ needs despite some improvements. The Parliament should have supported a full ban on surveillance ads. These ads exacerbate an epidemic of problems online, such as disinformation and manipulation of consumers’ choices. Banning ads that track minors is good, but the ban should have been extended to all consumers.”