The lawmakers representing the different political groups met on Wednesday (26 January) to iron down the political priorities in view of the first political trilogue of the Digital Services Act (DSA) that will take place on 31 January.
For the meeting, leading negotiator Christel Schaldemose shared an internal note defining the points she believes will need to be discussed at the political level. The list includes the articles on dark patterns (Art. 13a), online marketplaces (Art. 22 and 22a), online advertising (Art. 24), recommender systems (Art. 24a and 29) and the right to compensation (Art. 43a).
The list also contains specific provisions for SMEs (Art. 16) and very large online platforms (VLOPs) – those with more than 45 million users in the EU. For VLOPs, the more political measures are those concerning risk assessment, risk mitigation and algorithmic accountability (Art. 26 and 27).
“The objective of this first trilogue is to approve the four-column document as a basis for the negotiations (currently under preparation), to outline the Parliament and Council positions to identify common ground as well as key differences, to mandate the technical level to prepare the negotiations and work on technical issues and to agree on a timetable,” reads the note, seen by EURACTIV.
The internal document mentions as potentially additional points the governance framework for VLOPs and the inclusion of very large search engines in the scope, two critical issues in the position of the EU Council. The French Presidency, which will represent the member states in the negotiations, indicated these two points as their priorities, a European Parliament official told EURACTIV.
The official added that the MEPs split into two factions during the preparatory meeting. On the one hand, the European People’s Party (EPP) and Renew called for swift adoption. On the other hand, the social-democrats and green lawmakers stressed the need to keep the final result of high quality.
For the official, who belongs to the first camp, left-to-centre MEPs are mainly concerned with maintaining the last-minute changes they scored during last week’s plenary session, notably regarding the provisions on targeted advertising and anonymity online.
The EPP group tried to kill the new article on dark patterns in the plenary vote but the conservative MPs were largely isolated. The support for these provisions in the other political group remains strong. Still, lawmakers will be confronted with a completely different definition of dark patterns in the Council’s text, limited to commercial purposes.
A second parliamentary official, belonging to the second camp, denied such divergence ever emerged and noted that everyone was committed to quick adoption and to defend the compromise text.
During the meeting, MEPs pointed out that the European Parliament made most of the changes to the original proposal in the articles. In contrast, the modifications of the Council mainly concentrated in the text’s preamble, the recitals.
As a result, the negotiators might have to depart from the usual approach of nailing down the articles first, leaving the recitals last. As the two parts of the text are so different, lawmakers stressed that they need to be negotiated together.
The internal note also confirms the timeline for the negotiations, with four political trilogues planned on 31 January, 15 February, 15 March and the week commencing on 4 April. An initial timeline that filtered last week included a fifth trilogue on 24-25 March 2022, which no longer seems to be on the table.
[Edited by Nathalie Weatherald]