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GSMA and ETNO keen for EU to scrutinise online giants

European telco lobby groups GSMA and ETNO are – funnily enough – only too happy for the EU to subject online giants to greater scrutiny.

In a joint position paper (PDF) submitted to the European Commission’s consultation on its Digital Services Act (DSA) package, they call for a new ex-ante regulatory framework designed to curb the power of so-called online gatekeepers. Players like Google, for instance, which dominates online search and related services; or Apple and its all-powerful App Store; or Facebook, the world’s biggest conspiracy-theory-propagation platform.

The EU launched the consultation in June, seeking input on its plan to draw up new rules for digital services. The main aims include revising the Commission’s eCommerce Directive in order to establish the extent of online service providers’ liability for user-generated content hosted on their platforms. It also calls for input into how the EU can safeguard competition in the digital services market. The deadline for submissions is today.

GSMA and ETNO contend in their position paper that large online platforms acting as gatekeepers are “the centrepiece of digital environments. They hold the key to the user experience online, and they are the strategic partners for all businesses along the value chain that want to participate in economic and social activity.” Ergo, large online platforms have the motive and means to “exploit their crucial gatekeeper role to stifle digital markets and ecosystems, rather than nurturing them,” they warned, reeling off various unfair practices, such as promoting a platform’s own content or services without giving due prominence to rival offerings.

To keep these gatekeepers in check, GSMA and ETNO want the EU to draw up a list of prohibited unfair commercial practices to safeguard against common harmful behaviour. Remedies should be targeted and proportionate.

“Proportionality will be key in reflecting the nature and the gravity of the specific threats to competition and to contestability in a targeted market,” they said.

On the subject of the eCommerce Directive, GSMA and ETNO want to ensure that the greater burden of liability for hosting illegal or harmful content falls on the platform that hosts it, rather than the network that carries it.

They have called on the EU to “direct the regulatory focus to those hosting services that play an ‘active’ role in the dissemination of content online or share such content with a broad audience.”

Enforcement, they said, should take place at the hosting provider’s level, while using network-level injunctions only as a last resort.

“The future of our democracies, societies and economies depends on digital ecosystems that are open, fair, competitive, and respectful of the rule of law,” the lobby groups said, in a joint statement.

Following the consultation, the EU aims to finalise its DSA package by the end of the year.

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