The European Union (EU) seems, once gain, hell-bent on regulating every corner of the internet. This time, with what it will call its Digital Services Act.
There's been much opposition to EU's recent adoption of the Copyright Directive, that relies on protecting copyrighted material with “upload filters and intermediary liability.”
One of the reasons this was such a bad idea is that it might have been simply testing the waters and was always likely to spawn more restrictive policies elsewhere.
According to a leaked report obtained by Netzpolitik, a German blog, the European Commission (EC) is now preparing a new Digital Services Act – interpreted as an attempt to replace the e-Commerce directive passed in 2000.
According to the leaked, internal EC paper outlining the new legislation, it would update the old rules by covering “all digital services”: and that means anything from ISPs, cloud hosting, social media, search engines, ad services, to “collaborative economy services.”
The scope would cover all digital services, and in particular online platforms. This means the clarification would address all services across the internet stack from mere conduits such as ISPs to cloud hosting services; while a special emphasis in the assessment would be dedicated to updated rules for online platforms such as social media, search engines, or collaborative economy services, as well as for online advertising services.
The seven-page EC paper's push to replace the inconvenient e-Commerce Directive which does not call for any “general obligation to monitor” – while upload filters require just that in order to work.
And of course, the EU continues to defend its position, stating that upload filters do not equal constant monitoring to ensure compliance. But it's a weak, not to mention hypocritical argument.
The EC would now like to at the same time “affirm that general monitoring is prohibited while bringing in rules for proactive automated filtering technologies – aka, general monitoring.”
And last but not least, the paper wants to grapple with online hate speech and disinformation.
“Uniform rules for the removal of illegal content such as illegal hate speech would be made binding across the EU, building on the Recommendation on illegal content and case-law, and include a robust set of fundamental rights safeguards,” the document states.
The scope is very broad: social media platforms, described as “mere conduits,” as well as collaborative economy service, i.e., distributed goods and services.
The EC also argues in favor of “maximum simplicity of rules” in this paper.
Not only are the rules not likely become simpler – they'll probably gain in complexity, while once again shielding big tech players.
In addition, it seems that this initiative – not yet formalized within the EU, but worrying enough – wants to move in the opposite direction of what pretty much every digital rights advocate would like to see: the EU more centralization, this time in terms of regulation.