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Digital Services Act

Digital Principles by European Commission: too little, too late?

As abstract as they may seem, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of grand narratives in policy making. They help people make the meaning of events that otherwise seem as random as the weather and assess how effectively actions respond to objectives that the narrative sets. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the European Commision comes up with a plan for a Declaration of Digital Principles accompanied by a “Digital Compass”. But why only now? And why such a scope? And is all this enough to give the EU citizens a greater meaning of the role that the EU may have in shaping their online experiences? 

“The failure of imagination”

The European Commission from time to time takes seriously the need to create a grand narrative to help communicate its policy goals – and then underdelivers in practice. It is visible in the notion of “promoting our European way of life”, a framing that made its way into the official list of priorities of the Commission in the current legislative term. Not only is it a disappointing nod to the right-wing rhetoric of “Europe under siege”, but it also hardly means anything as we Europeans are rather beautifully different in how we choose to shape our ways of life. In fact In varietate concordia (Latin for United in diversity), the official motto of the EU fits us much better.

Another example is the Digital Single Market framework (DSM), which seems to make sense as to its core objective – removing online barriers in access to goods and services across the European Union. The problem is that the market does not exist in separation from the people, their needs, aspirations, and structural barriers they encounter in access to public and private services, in creating non-monetary value for themselves and for others, and finally in reaching out one another in a way that nurtures public debate and European cohesion. 

Read More »Digital Principles by European Commission: too little, too late?

How the DSA can help Wikipedia – or at least not hurt it

The Digital Services Act is probably the most consequential dossier of the current EU legislative term.  It will most likely become a formative set of rules on content moderation for the internet. It also means that it will shape the way Wikipedia and its sister projects operate. One can only hope that the DSA doesn’t try to fix what isn’t broken, specifically our community-based content moderation model. What are the scenarios?

A quick history of recent platform liability legislation

One of the reasons why the DSA became a thing, is the growing conviction that online intermediaries – from social media, through various user-generated content hosting platforms, to online marketplaces – will not fix the problems with illegal content through voluntary actions. In the previous legislative term we saw two proposals to change the responsibilities and liability of platforms. The focus was on types of content: copyrighted material (in the infamous Directive in Copyright in the Digital Single Market) and so-called terrorist content (in the Regulation on Dissemination of Terrorist content Online, or TERREG, with its final vote on April 28). 

The topical focus has its limitations, such as the number of legal regimes one platform would need to conform to simultaneously. This time around, the European Commission wants to impose rules on platforms that would cover all sorts of an intermediaries, content and services. 

Read More »How the DSA can help Wikipedia – or at least not hurt it