The European Commission has launched its long-awaited consultation on the Digital Services Act (DSA) which will develop new rules for internet platforms.  These rules will potentially set new standards for government regulation online and, therefore, have a global impact on all digital stakeholders, including the library field.

This consultation takes place simultaneously with efforts to implement the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, which already looked to open up key questions about the responsibilities of internet platforms, and how to ensure the respect of users’ fundamental rights within the digital sphere.

The DSA will look further at the future of the safe harbour provisions that provide protections for internet platforms against blame for the actions of their users. While some argue that platforms themselves should do more, others note that new responsibilities are likely to lead to over-blocking of ideas and expression online, without acting against those actually committing crimes.

The Act will also tackle additional key points such as the regulation of major digital players, and how to address mis/disinformation and data gathering – all issues likely to shape the future of the internet.

IFLA has therefore responded on behalf of the library field in order to make the case for users’ fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of access to information, including through exceptions and limitations to copyright, will be respected and ensured within the next legal framework.  

Related to the regulation of significant digital stakeholders, IFLA underlined that platforms should a priori not be held liable for third-party contents. Any new rules should also be realistic about the capacity of algorithms or other automated tools to make judgements about where the line between legitimate and dangerous speech lies.

IFLA also added that rules should be manageable for small stakeholders to compete within the digital single market. There are indeed strong grounds for considering how to avoid libraries and their users becoming ‘locked in’ to certain platforms or services offered by individual companies.

Furthermore, while use of data can of course help improve services and develop artificial intelligence, it is important that this remains a matter of choice for users.