What will ‘Europe’s Digital Future’ be?
In this COVID-19 dominated period of time, we have experienced, more than ever, the beneficial sides of technology. Platforms such as Facebook can help us maintaining our friendships, Microsoft Teams is super helpful for providing us with online classes, and due to the existence of Amazon we are still able to buy presents when physical shops are closed. With regard to this, it is inevitable that our dependence on such online platforms has increased enormously. However, as a result the risks of unfair practices against both consumers and business users are also increasing.
These large online platforms were essentially regulated by the E-Commerce Directive, adopted in the year 2000. It is not surprising that a lot has changed since its adoption 20 years ago. Therefore, the European Commission is upgrading the rules governing digital services in the European Union. On December 15th 2020, the European Commission proposed two legislative initiatives: the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). These legislative initiatives address new challenges online, particularly in relation to online intermediaries. As the European Commission suggests, they will “create a safer and more open digital space, with European values at its centre” and “establish a level playing field to foster innovation, growth, and competitiveness, both in the European Single Market and globally”.
The legislative inititatives are part of the European Digital Strategy, Shaping Europe’s Digital Future. This Strategy contains several ideas and actions for a digital transformation in Europe. Such a transformation is defintely needed, as our growing dependence on technology is inducing more and more risks to our fundamental rights, such as our right to privacy and our freedom of speech. For example, big technology companies have often been criticized over their role in the spread of online disinformation. The introduction of the Digital Services Act seems to be a great improvement. As the European Commission states, the new rules will “enhance the mechanisms for removal of illegal content and for the effective protection of users’ fundamental rights online”. Moreover, the new rules will create a stronger public oversight of online platforms.
Thus, the rapid technological change we are going through certainly demands new regulation. Therefore, the initiatives by the European are warmly welcomed. The European Parliament and Member States will now have to discuss the Commission’s proposal of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act. This will happen according to the ordinary legislative procedure. Once the initiatives are adopted, they will be applicable all across the European Union. This will definitely be a big step for improving Europe’s Digital future.