In the January 20th session of the European Parliament, the content of the Digital Services Act draft, which aims to strengthen the transparency and accountability of digital platforms and ensure digital rights of users, was voted for.
The voted amendments consist of the prevention of unauthorized collection and use of the most personal information (such as sexual orientation and political views), the prevention of manipulative interfaces usage, designed to make users mistakenly agree to personal data collection, the prevention of reducing the webpage functionality for users that refuse to consent to personal data collection, the prevention of legal privacy restrictions of communication via digital technology by EU member states, and the prevention of excessive user post deletion due to the risk of legal liability. Alongside these amendments, the controversial principle of excluding media from content moderation, which would enable the malicious operation of low-quality media by spreading misinformation, was rejected. All these changes are crucial for the preservation of freedom of speech and access to information in the digital environment, representing the success of European CSO’s and organization networks which fought to preserve democracy in the digital environment. Namely, more than 100 of them, including Gong, participated in dedicated and multi-month activities to raise awareness of the dangers of surveillance advertising and the need to ban it.
However, the story with the bill proposal is by no means over; it is now moving behind closed doors, for further discussion between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. Apart from the fact that the content can change significantly through these negotiations in the next few months, this period is a great opportunity for further lobbying influence. That is precisely why it is important to continue monitoring the development of the Act, because in its current state, Europe has the opportunity to become a leading defender of the digital rights of users in the world. Gong will continue to advocate for greater responsibility of large digital companies, so that they do not jeopardize human rights and democracy.
Despite the efforts and activities of CSO’s, a strong lobbying campaign of large companies has successfully deterred members of the European Parliament from including a total ban on surveillance advertising (it was limited to a ban on implementing it on underage users) – a key source of personal data commodification, and the main source of profit for tech giants like Facebook and Google. Due to the absence of this ban, users and the content they come in contact with will continue to be at risk of being influenced and directed by technology companies.
Gong, in cooperation with other organizations, will continue to advocate for the content of the Act, which guarantees human rights and freedoms, and which will shape the Internet into an open, secure and responsible infrastructure for everyone. In previous activities, we signed a joint People’s Declaration with other CSO’s, contacted Croatian MEP with an appeal to vote in favor of banning the collection and use of personal data, and to oppose the media’s exclusion from content moderation, while also actively educating and informing the public – all for the purpose of raising awareness of the importance of banning supervisory advertising.