For a European web

The European Union is working on the most important update of its regulatory framework for internet platforms in two decades.

The European Commission is committed to revising the E-Commerce Directive, which is the backbone of European internet regulation. The Digital Services Act (source) , currently under preparation, will update the legislation on the legal liability of internet platforms. The new Act also foresees the introduction of new pro-competitive rules, as dominant platforms currently behave unfairly because of their supremacy.

The European Union must ensure that the reform of the e-commerce directive does not follow in the footsteps of restrictive regulations on freedom and competition on the Internet, such as the copyright directive or the Avia law, which fortunately has been largely censored by the Constitutional Council. This reform must make it possible to break the monopolistic situation in which the major platforms find themselves, and at the same time it must enable users to regain control over their data and the use made of it. In order to achieve these objectives, we believe that certain elements must be incorporated into the law, first and foremost the obligation of interoperability.

Most of the elements involved in our use of the Internet are designed and regulated by a few major platforms, the situation is quasi-monopolistic. These platforms control expression and arbitrate access to content, knowledge, goods and services. This quasi-monopoly situation was not the norm in the early days of the Internet, it has emerged over time. Large players stifle competition through technical measures, legal action, or buy up their competitors. Market entry has gradually become more and more difficult for competition. Regulation has become too costly and too difficult for new entrants to implement, while the large groups already established benefit from their experience, networks and significant resources. Users therefore find themselves obliged to go through these large platforms, unable to bring non-existent competition into play.

In order to allow competition to emerge and to give users back power over their data and the use made of it, the new reform will have to be inspired by the Internet in its early days. In the beginning, data collection was much less important, users had much more control over their use of the Internet. The situation has gradually deteriorated, the emergence of large groups has reduced transparency and given rise to morally questionable practices.

The large platforms developed on the basis of pre-existing products and structures, often against the will of the owners of these structures. It was a question of interoperability. At that time, users had more choice and control over the services and products they used.

At Blue Europe, we believe, like the EFF, the Mozilla Foundation and other players in the Internet of tomorrow, that certain principles should be enshrined in the new law.

To encourage innovation and put users back in control of their data, interoperability is needed. Platforms must provide opportunities for interoperability with competing platforms. It would allow users to communicate across platform boundaries without creating new accounts. Users would no longer be forced to stay on a platform that does not respect their privacy and that secretly collects their data. It would allow users to make informed choices.

Interoperability must allow maximum flexibility and diversity. Platforms with significant market power should allow competitors to act on behalf of users. Users should be able to delegate elements of their online experience to different competent actors, in a principle of free competition. For example, if a user does not like the moderation practices of a forum, he should be able to delegate moderation to another organisation, which specialises in moderation, for greater efficiency.

The business model of internet platforms is based on the collection and sale of personal data for commercial purposes (advertising, influence…). Interoperability must be framed in such a way that the data made available are made available only for the purpose of interoperability, and that they are not diverted for commercial purposes. The new regulation must ensure that the privacy and security of users is safeguarded. Thus, users must have control over their data, at any time they can give or revoke the right of the platforms to collect and use their data.

Interoperability must be accompanied by strong security measures. Interoperability should not be an excuse for platforms to relax data security.

Interoperability must not be hijacked by the major platforms in order to consolidate their dominant positions. The more competition is developed, the better the user experience becomes. Barriers to entry for interoperability must be kept to a minimum.

New regulation must aim to improve the online experience of users. The latter has progressively deteriorated over the last two decades, in parallel with the rise of large groups, which have reached a quasi-monopoly situation. To remedy this situation, the new regulation needs to restore users’ control over their data and the use made of it. Interoperability and delegation then appear to be essential conditions for restoring power to users. These two elements will allow the emergence of competition, which by informing users will allow the emergence of healthier practices that respect users’ privacy, while improving the quality of their online experience.

Particular attention will need to be paid to the security aspect, interoperability and delegation should not be used as an excuse for major platforms to slacken attention and efforts on data protection. Moreover, a comprehensive view of digital policy is needed, and new legislation should not be diverted from its original objectives and ultimately serve the interests of the dominant platforms. One of the cornerstones of this project is competition, and the new regulation must ensure that it promotes its emergence and protects it from the major platforms.

New regulation must aim to improve the online experience of users. The latter has progressively deteriorated over the last two decades, in parallel with the rise of large groups, which have reached a quasi-monopoly situation. To remedy this situation, the new regulation needs to restore users’ control over their data and the use made of it. Interoperability and delegation then appear to be essential conditions for restoring power to users. These two elements will allow the emergence of competition, which by informing users will allow the emergence of healthier practices that respect users’ privacy, while improving the quality of their online experience.

Particular attention will need to be paid to the security aspect, interoperability and delegation should not be used as an excuse for major platforms to slacken attention and efforts on data protection. Moreover, a comprehensive view of digital policy is needed, and new legislation should not be diverted from its original objectives and ultimately serve the interests of the dominant platforms. One of the cornerstones of this project is competition, and the new regulation must ensure that it promotes its emergence and protects it from the major platforms.

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