In December 2020 the European Commission published the draft EU Digital Services Act. The law seeks to establish a new paradigm for tech sector regulation, and we see it as a crucial opportunity to address many of the challenges holding back the internet from what it should be. As EU lawmakers start to consider amendments and improvements to the draft law, today we’re publishing our substantive perspectives and recommendations to guide those deliberations.
We are encouraged that the draft DSA includes many of the policy recommendations that Mozilla and our allies had advocated for in recent years. For that we commend the European Commission. However, many elements of the DSA are novel and complex, and so there is a need for elaboration and clarification in the legislative mark-up phase. We believe that with targeted amendments the DSA has the potential to serve as the effective, balanced, and future-proof legal framework.
Given the sheer breath of the DSA, we’re choosing to focus on the elements where we believe we have a unique contribution to make, and where we believe the DSA can constitute a real paradigm shift. That is not to say we don’t have thoughts on the other elements of the proposal, and we look forward to supporting our allies in industry and civil society who are focusing their efforts elsewhere.
Broadly speaking, our position can be summarised as follows:
- Asymmetric obligations for the largest platforms
- We welcome the DSA’s approach of making very large platforms subject to enhanced regulation compared to the rest of the industry, but we suggest tweaks to the scope and definitions.
- The definition of these so-called Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPS) shouldn’t be based solely on quantitative criteria, but possibly qualitative (e.g. taking into account risk) as well, in anticipation of certain extraordinary edge cases where a service that meets that quantitative VLOP standard is in reality very low risk in nature.
- Systemic transparency
- We welcome the DSA’s inclusion of public-facing ad archive APIs and the provisions on access to data for public interest researchers.
- We call for the advertising transparency elements to take into account novel forms of paid influence, and for the definition of ‘public interest researchers’ to be broader than just university faculty.
- A risk-based approach to content responsibility
- We welcome this approach, but suggest more clarification on the types of risks to be assessed and how those assessments are undertaken.
- Auditing and oversight
- We welcome the DSA’s third-party auditing requirement but we provide recommendations on how it can be more than just a tick-box exercise (e.g. through standardisation; clarity on what is to be audited; etc).
- We reiterate the call for oversight bodies to be well-resourced and staffed with the appropriate technical expertise.
This position paper is the latest milestone in our long-standing engagement on issues of content regulation and platform responsibility in the EU. In the coming months we’ll be ramping up our efforts further, and look forward to supporting EU lawmakers in turning these recommendations into reality.
Ultimately, we firmly believe that if developed properly, the DSA can usher in a new global paradigm for tech regulation. At a time when lawmakers from Delhi to Washington DC are grappling with questions of platform accountability and content responsibility, the DSA is indeed a once-in-a-generation opportunity.