Digital Services Act

In its 2020 work programme, the European Commission stated that it will propose a new Digital Services Act (DSA) to strengthen the single market and protect citizens and their rights. IAB Europe’s preliminary views on themes already being discussed in connection with the DSA package can be found here.

We recognise the importance of discussion to strengthen the single market and protect citizens and their rights. We find it critical for the European businesses to continue deriving value from their activity in the digital space, in particular, the European media for which advertising is the major revenue stream that consequently provides users with unpaid access to content and services.

We call on the policymakers to be cognisant of the existing regulatory framework, in particular, the EU privacy and data protection framework applicable to any business activity underpinned by data. The General Data Protection Regulation unambiguously established the principles of data protection in the digital advertising context.

Keeping users safe online is critical from the digital advertising industry perspective.

In doing so, one should acknowledge the difference between illegal and harmful content. Existence of a well-established self-regulatory framework for advertising content allows consumers to lodge complaints about any type of advertising considered to be inappropriate.

The industry is committed to minimise the risk of advertising inadvertently funding websites hosting illegal or illicit content, as well as content considered to be disinformation with strong voluntary ‘follow-the-money’ measures. While eradicating such malpractice is challenging due to the boundless and pervasive nature of the internet, the industry has proven that technology standards and best practice constitute a sound approach. This allows for rapid reaction and significant improvement of the situation over time, further enabling innovation, to the advantage of the businesses and ultimately users benefiting from access to free ad-supported content that powers the open web.

It is vital to keep in mind that from the user perspective, the EU privacy and data protection framework explicitly recognises a host of user rights from which consumers can benefit in relation to advertising powered by data.

The industry is also committed to maintaining transparency and quality across the digital advertising and marketing ecosystem, for all forms of trading. Industry-driven approaches and technical standards to generate said transparency should be recognised. Given the ever-evolving technology, imposing prescriptive measures would stifle innovation and growth, besides the fact that any legal rules would very quickly become outdated.

The existing liability regime reflects the reality of the market, whereby digital media is bought on behalf of the buyer. We do, however, welcome reflection on the ‘Good Samaritan’ provision, which could allow the digital advertising ecosystem players to continue voluntary monitoring without losing the benefit of the safe harbours.

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