At the adoption of the Council’s General Approach on the Digital Services Act (DSA), the EBU deplores that Member States have not sufficiently addressed the impact of online platforms on the broadcasting sector.
Third party platforms, such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat, have become important gateways for users to access media content and services. This comes, however, with certain challenges. Online platforms regularly remove content pieces or block access to entire accounts and applications of media providers, including our members, without or for ambiguous reasons. There are concerns as well about the way online platforms fail to attribute logos and branding of business users to the content, goods and services they offer. The DSA, which will update the legal framework for online platforms, is the right place to address these issues.
Wouter Gekiere, Head of the European Broadcasting Union’s Brussels Office, said: “The DSA will be a missed opportunity if it does not put a limit to arbitrary platform behaviour. We should not accept that platforms undermine or disregard EU and national media standards in key areas such as children’s and youth content by applying their terms and conditions. Today, it is solely up to platforms to set, apply and enforce their own terms and conditions to media service offerings.”
In its current form, the DSA will set in stone that platforms can moderate regulated media content as they wish. Platforms have significant influence on access to information and opinion-making. Thus, safeguards against unfair and arbitrary platform behaviour would have a directly beneficial impact on democratic society and on the confidence and trust people need in accessing and engaging with media online.
The DSA has the ambition to make online platforms more transparent and accountable. Many of the DSA’s transparency provisions are, however, limited in scope. As all online intermediaries use algorithms to rank and moderate content on their services, it clearly does not make sense that only very large online platforms should render their recommender systems transparent. Member States should have made the DSA bolder in that regard.
As a horizontal regulation directly applicable in all Member States, the DSA will run up against the current legislative framework for the media. It also has the potential to hamper Member States in taking measures to promote cultural diversity and media pluralism in the online environment. The Council does not sufficiently clarify the future interaction between the DSA, sector-specific laws and the Member States’ competences. This could result in regulatory uncertainties in the future.
We believe that there is still opportunity for important improvements to the DSA and remain hopeful that the European Parliament’s positioning and the forthcoming trilogue negotiations will deliver those improvements. We rely on policymakers to rein in unfair and arbitrary platform behaviour, make the Internet a genuinely safer and more transparent place and to clarify that the DSA will not affect Europe’s finely balanced regulatory framework for the media.
Our full position paper on the Digital Services act can be read here.