After months of talks, a historic agreement was reached in Brussels on Saturday (2am) and a new digital services law was formulated. The Digital Services Act is the most important legislative step towards a better and safer Internet. This will help to make Silicon Valley internet platforms to be more supportive of human rights and democracy, both in design and systems. In the future, profits should not come at the expense of our fundamental rights.
Among other things, the law provides rules for moderating content, increasing the responsibility of platforms in the areas of illegal products and system risks. Therefore, as the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that what is illegal outside the internet must also be illegal on the internet.
For example, for spreading Russian war propaganda on Facebook, the Commission in Europe now has the right to oblige Facebook (or other platforms) to remove such content. The same applies to hatred and misinformation, the expansion of which has so far been widespread, and which has a direct adverse effect, limited only to a small extent.
In addition to removing illegal content more effectively than before, harmful (but not illegal) content must also be moderated on platforms. The law also prohibits targeted advertisements that have analysed personal data of minors or of a special kind (e.g. political views). Moreover, platforms must create a way for users to turn off personalized recommendation systems. The so-called dark pattern design (dark patterns – a technological design that covertly deceives the user to do what the company wants) has also to be banned so that users could make conscious and informed decisions.
In the future, platforms must better protect user personal data, moderate illegal and harmful content and ensure transparency of systems. Besides, users have the right to demand compensation for the damage caused to them by the platform that does not follow the rules.
This is a great victory, which has been the result of the great work of civil society. The Human Rights Centre is working to ensure that the fundamental rights of all of us would be protected online, therefore we have supported the campaigns for the Digital Services Act by European NGOs, and we welcome the ambitious European move.
At the same time, the work is not over yet, because now the Digital Services Act must also be enforced, and changes must be implemented!
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