DSA cramped with amendments ahead of key vote in the European Parliament

EU Lawmakers will vote on the Digital Services Act (DSA) on Thursday (20 January). [Botond Horvath/Shutterstock]

Over a hundred alternative amendments were tabled on the DSA ahead of the plenary vote, with some critical comebacks and reformulations of existing proposals.

The amendments are a mixed bag of new bids, bring-backs of measures discarded in the consumer protection committee (IMCO), and more moderate versions of proposals that have failed to secure a majority so far.

According to a Parliament official, there were no particular surprises, “but agreeing on a voting list will be a nightmare.”

The DSA will be discussed during the plenary session on Wednesday (19 January), with the votes scheduled for the next day.

Political groups

Green, leftist, conservative and right-wing MEPs have tabled tens of amendments, several of which are more about sending a political message than proposals that can get through the plenary vote.

The Green group tabled more than 20 amendments, including some rejected in IMCO on short-term rentals, citizen assemblies, supervisory fees and environmental risks.

Additional amendments concern the recommender systems, the environmental impact of online shopping, the methodology for designating very large online platforms, the possibility to report illegal content anonymously, and interoperability.

On content moderation, the Greens pitched strict safeguards for the use of automated tools and that only judicial authorities should be able to request the removal of illegal content, removing this power from the public administration.

Another Green amendment proposes to exclude digital libraries and non-for-profit education platforms such as Wikipedia from the DSA reporting obligations.

Similarly, the Left tabled over 20 amendments, with the most significant ones on removing the trade secret safeguards in the transparency obligations and on measures banning targeted ads, profiling in general and the use of sensitive data.

Leftist MEPs also want to introduce interoperability measures, stay down obligations for illegal content, the right to redress against online traders and higher penalties from 6% to 10% of the turnover.

The Left amendments include safeguards on animal trade, something the German government raised several times during the Council discussion.

The conservative ECR and extreme-right ID groups tabled fewer amendments focused on protecting freedom of expression and targeting social media, going as far as preventing the banning of accounts that violate content moderation rules and removing trusted flaggers.

DSA parliamentary agreement set to hold in key committee vote

The major political groups of the European Parliament reached common ground on the Digital Services Act (DSA), which is set to be largely confirmed in a key committee vote as alternative amendments have so far gathered only limited support.

Committees

The industry committee (ITRE) presented amendments on interoperability obligations for very large online platforms to avoid a ‘lock-in’ effect, particularly for the portability of reputation systems.

ITRE also proposed allowing SMEs to establish a legal representative via collective representation and giving micro and small companies more flexibility to comply with the DSA obligations.

The civil liberties committee (LIBE) submitted several amendments on providing the option to pay online anonymously and substantial limitations on using automated tools for content moderation.

For LIBE, the order to take down illegal content should not apply if the content is legal in the country where the company is established. At any rate, removal orders should only apply to the jurisdiction of the issuing authority.

Moreover, MEPs focused on civil liberties put forth amendments that require content moderations not to interfere with the freedom of expression. The disclosure of personal information should only occur to prevent or investigate serious crimes.

DSA: MEPs near agreement on targeted ads, recommender system, marketplace liability

The main political groups of the European Parliament could soon agree on key points of the proposal to regulate online services, according to the latest compromise amendments seen by EURACTIV. Still, discussions may not meet the December deadline.

Media exemption

The media exemption was a controversial proposal to leave editorial content outside the content moderation rules of digital platforms. The measure was rejected by the consumer protection committee (IMCO) because it could open a loophole for disinformation.

Two amendments were tabled on Emmanuel Maurel and Geoffroy Didier’s initiative with support from members of the cultural committee.

The most significant one requires platforms to put in place specific procedures to deal with editorial content and give the media outlets the possibility to challenge the decision before it is applied.

“The latest amendments look to introduce obligations to make platforms accountable for upholding fundamental rights and respecting media freedom and applicable content rules,” said Wouter Gekiere, head of Brussels office at the European Broadcasting Union.

By contrast, EU DisinfoLab’s executive director Alexandre Alaphilippe considers publishers could challenge the decision without limitation, preventing it from ever being applied.

In addition, the same group of signatories tabled amendments to give rightsholders the capacity to signal illegal content without being qualified as ‘trusted flaggers’.

Media exemption ruled out in DSA negotiations, but could return

An attempt to exempt the media from new content moderation rules has been ruled out following opposition from all major political groups, but the battle is not over.

Targeted advertising

Amendments on targeted ads were also largely expected upon the initiative of the tracking-free ads coalition, a cross-party coalition of MEPs left to centre.

The coalition initially pushed for a total ban on targeted advertising in the DSA. Still, following resistance from more business-minded lawmakers, an agreement was reached only to ban the targeting of minors.

Now, however, the coalition presented two amendments, which do not go as far as a total ban as there is no majority for it.

The first amendment would require that the platform not disable functionalities for users who refuse consent for their personal data being used for advertising. The second one obliges platforms to put users to make an informed decision, and refusing consent should not be more complicated than giving consent.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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