The digital regulation within the European Union was the subject of an agreement last Saturday between the members of the EU, concretized in a draft Directive carried by the Commission (Digital Services Act, DSA). This Regulation completes the section on digital markets (Digital Market Act, AMD) on which a deal was found in March and which attacked anti-competitive practices. The DSA also updates a guideline on Electronic Commerce adopted in 2000, at the beginning of the internet era. Its objective is to regulate abuses and put an end to areas of lawlessness. Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market, summed up the scope of future regulation by saying that “everything that is prohibited offline must be prohibited online”.
This update was necessary given the importance that digital exchanges have taken on, whether from the point of view of trade and services or from the point of view of information and personal interactions. A few figures allow us to measure the situation. E-commerce represents 14% of retail trade in 2021, a constantly rising figure (source Fevad). Today France has 127,000 e-commerce sites and 300,000 points of sale. 39 million French people shop online, 14 million using their mobile phone.
The connection of these commerce platforms with social networks is notable. A study YouGov showed that in 2020, 31% of French people made a purchase via a social network, this share rising to 38% for the 18-34 age group. Of course, social networks like Facebook, Instagram… capture a major part of this flow. Behind the influence, the sharing of ideas, content, photos, the “business” aspect is not far away.
Empowering platforms and social networks is the ambition of the DSA. The fight against illegal content, incitement to hatred, the sale of defective products, the fight against misinformation, harm to minors and their mental health are among the objectives of the regulations. Large platforms, defined as having more than 45 million users in the EU will have the heaviest obligations. “Obligation of means and transparency” which includes more information on the algorithms used to target product or service proposals. In concrete terms, national authorities will be able to have access to these algorithms in order to better control the processing of different information. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) for trade continues to increase. cases famous, such as that of the 2016 US presidential election, have highlighted to the general public the strategic importance of this data, its ownership and the use made of it. The profiling of data produced by platform and network users is a well-known reality. “Tell me what you buy and what you consult, I will tell you what you want”. The personalization of the service provided by the algorithms should not hide an issue of freedom: it is a question of not locking the user into a fixed profile.
The contributions of this new regulation will also require careful assessment in order to respect freedom of expression. In France, the Constitutional Council had censorship several provisions of the law known as Aviation intended to combat hateful content on the internet. The absence of judicial control of the content that was removed led to a risk of over-censorship on the part of the platforms, which parties of all tendencies denounced.
Some observers have described our time as entering the era of “homo numericus” which would take over from homo sapiens, the “cogito”, the ability to think, giving way to a “connecto”. Descartes’ famous phrase “I think therefore I am” becomes “I am connected therefore I exist”! Understanding the technologies we use, remaining in control of the tools and data, are challenges for the coming years. Alliance VITA’s proposals for the elections include a priority axis dedicated to these subjects.
Beyond these important political and economic issues, different visions of human life are also emerging. Human life is not a simple connection that one disconnects after production and consumption of data, but a given that one can never completely possess.
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The European Union imposes legislation on the regularization of digital – Alliance VITA
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