Changes in internet landscape must be reflected in regulatory framework

Written by Marco Zullo on 12 July 2017 in Opinion
Opinion

The internet landscape has radically changed, and this must be reflected in the regulatory framework, argues Marco Zullo.

Marco Zullo | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual


The Five Star Movement was born and developed mostly online. For us, a free and open internet that gives everyone the possibility to directly access and verify any information is essential for an enforced democracy.

Over the last few years, the internet landscape has radically changed, and it is necessary to intervene to update the regulatory framework, in order to match different needs: the need to foster the development and sustainability of the creative and media industries; and the need to avoid barriers to the positive effect of the internet for consumers, who are taking advantage of the innovative role of platforms and the digital dissemination of content.

On top of this, there is another crucial need: the need to develop adequate IT infrastructures, so that everyone can enjoy high-speed connectivity, in complete safety, which entails stringent data protection standards.


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The online sales of goods proposal will provide crucial elements for a new framework. We want to make sure that citizens who shop online have the same protection as when they shop in traditional stores.

Another issue Europe is struggling with is online platforms' liability. Should these platforms - such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and a huge variety of online marketplaces, social media or sharing economy platforms - be responsible for content uploaded by users?

It is worth recalling that the regulatory framework governing this is the eCommerce directive, dating back to 2000 - a directive that certainly needs to be reviewed, because 17 years in the digital age is a geological era.

Just think that Facebook, one of the most popular platforms, if not the most popular, was launched in the US in 2004, four years after the eCommerce directive.

The principles contained in the eCommerce directive have allowed the flourishing of the web in the last 17 years. In particular, the principle of limited liability by online platforms, which says that a platform cannot be responsible for contents (or goods) uploaded by users. Without this principle, the so-called online markets such as Amazon, Zalando or many others would find it hard to exist.

If we talk about platforms we cannot avoid the taxation issue. Taxes must be paid by the platforms in the countries where the service is provided. This should be a dogma for the European legislator. It is time to stop excessive market concentrations in the hands of a few. It is time to create a level playing field for SMEs and start-ups. 

Some weeks ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg launched the 'Hard Questions' blog, in which he asked himself and the two billion people who use Facebook, "How can we decide which posts to remove, what is considered hate speech, what incitement to terrorism is?

How can we use the data we have without breaking the trust relationship with our users? How can we ensure that social networks are good for democracy?"

Parliament will try to answer those questions, but it will be very difficult to come up with straight answers.

 

About the author

Marco Zullo (IT) is Parliament's EFDD group shadow rapporteur on towards a digital single market act

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