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Digital Services Act (DSA)

The DSA, also known as the Digital Services Act, is considered to be the next major project for shaping the digital revolution by the EU after the General Data Protection Regulation. The EU Commission’s goal is to establish new rules for online platforms, especially for very large ones, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Airbnb, or Booking.com with the DSA.

My role

I am the Civil Liberties Committee’s rapporteur for the fundamental rights implications of the proposal (Opinion provided by the LIBE Committee). This includes the responsibility for representing the Committee’s opinion, participation in the leading IMCO Committee’s negotiations on the proposal as well as in the final trilogue negotiations with Council and Commission next year. I am also shadow rapporteur for the Legal Affairs Committee’s (Opinion provided by the JURI Committee).

What is it about:

The Digital Services Act (DSA) provides Europe with the chance to set global standards. The DSA will regulate the free exchange of opinions online, our choices as consumers, the right to privacy, and the basic principles of a global Internet. The rights and freedoms of citizens must be placed at the center of the new framework. Digital communications have the immense potential to allow everyone to have a voice, to mobilise and to connect globally – but they can also pose a very real threat to fundamental rights, our democracies and our economies. The DSA needs to tackle the harmful surveillance capitalist business model oft many online platforms.

I have criticised the Commission’s proposal for failing short of addressing the challenges. In some respects it would make things even worse. It encourages the use of error-prone upload filters and other instruments of privatised surveillance and control by platforms. It labeled anonymity (“inauthentic use”) a risk. Before the vote in the plenary of the EU Parliament, I tabled numerous amendments for the LIBE Committee that addressed these problems. The amendmend on digital privacy and the right to anonymous internet use was adopted. With this important victory, the Parliament now wants users to be able to use and pay for digital services anonymously wherever possible.

My key demands:
  1. Automated censorship algorithms (upload filters) must be banned. Automated upload filters are often unable to distinguish between illegal and legal content where legality depends on context or the publisher’s intention. Unfortunately, the Commission’s proposal lacks a ban on error-prone upload filter censorship engines, which could even be made mandatory for large platforms.
  2. Content removal orders shall require a court order and shall not affect content legally published abroad: to prevent authoritarian governments from applying national censorship legislation that violates fundamental rights throughout the EU.
  3. Put an end to surveillance capitalism: Individuals’ online activities allow deep insights into their personalities and open the door to manipulation and influence. The collection and exploitation of our online activities must, therefore, be limited to what is strictly necessary to provide digital services. Behavioral advertising should be phased out.
  4. Users shall have a right to use digital services anonymously wherever possible. Anonymous use of digital services successfully inhibits the illicit disclosure of data, identity theft, and other forms of misuse of personal data, which was collected online and protects vulnerable users against discrimination.
  5. Users should be given control over the algorithms prioritising the information that is presented to them in timelines etc. in order to contain the algorithm-driven spreading of problematic content. Since commercial platforms have an interest in displaying as many advertisements as possible, their algorithms tend to recommend sensationalist and extreme content to keep users online, resulting in the spread of conspiracy theories, disinformation and hate speech. By allowing users to choose external algorithms for sorting their timelines, content would be recommended based on what users truly want or don’t want to see (rather than the platform’s commercial interest.
  6. Give users a right to cross-platform exchange of information (interoperability) to ensure a diverse online ecosystem and users’ freedom of choice: My goal is for users to be able to communicate with each other via different services (e.g. social networks). For example, interoperability means that people can follow Facebook or Twitter accounts and react to them via alternative platforms. True interoperability should enable a competitive market for the most innovative services and allow users to leave dominant platforms while still keeping in touch with their contacts.

Timetable of negotiations

Explanation: For the Digital Services Act, the Parliament’s IMCO Committee (Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection) has the lead and proposed the Parliament’s position. Other associated committees, such as the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) and Industry, Research and Energy  Committee (ITRE), Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM), Culture and Education Committee (CULT), Transport and Tourism Committee (TRAN) and the Economic Committee (ECON) provided opinions on the legislation with regard to their respective field of competence to the leading IMCO Committee. I am the rapporteur for the LIBE Committee’s Opinion, covering primarily the fundamental rights aspects of the proposed legislation. I am also the shadow rapporteur for the Opinion of the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI). The opinions prepared by these two committees also fed into the main report of the leading IMCO committee. As LIBE rapporteur for opinion I participate in the shadow rapporteur meetings of the lead committee as well as in the trilogue.

The IMCO report has be submitted to the plenary of the European Parliament, and all 705 members will cast their vote on the Parliament’s position for the Digital Services Act. Below you can therefore see the upcoming dates (all dates are subject to changes at short notice): 

  • Final vote on the Parliament’s position on the Digital Services Act (vote on the IMCO report by all Members of Parliament in the plenary session): Thursday, 20 January, 9.15 a.m. (vote on amendments) and 1.45 p.m. (final vote)
  • Start of the trilogue negotiations between Parliament, Council and Commission: 31 January 2022

What you can do

Get in touch with your Members of the European Parliament! The so-called shadow-rapporteurs for the Digital Services Act report of the leading IMCO committee have the lead on the negotiations and draw up the voting lists for the other members of their groups. Here, you can find the contact details of the lead negotiators:

Event Recording: Digital Services Act – A Game Changer for our Fundamental Rights?

Watch the recording of our panel debate with Soshana Zuboff (Harvard Economist and Author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism), MEP Christel Schaldemose (DSA Rapporteur), Werner Stengg (Digital Policy Expert Cabinet Vestager), Christoph Schmon (International Policy Coordination (Electronic Frontier Foundation), David Reichel (Data and Research Unit, EU Agency for Fundamental Rights) and MEP Patrick Breyer (LIBE DSA Rapporteur).

Official documents

Commission Proposal and Reactions

LIBE Opinion

JURI Opinion

IMCO Report (lead Committee)