MEP Alex Agius Saliba adamant that people must be prioritised over profit maximisation

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 December, 2020 at 2:34 pm by Andre Camilleri

Reacting to the European Commission’s much-awaited proposals on the Digital Services and Digital Markets Acts, MEP Agius Saliba said that both proposals have a major role to play in determining that ‘maximising’ huge profits of tech giants are not prioritised over safer digital space for all users, where fundamental rights and public interests, the users’ and consumers’ rights are protected online.

Alex Agius Saliba, S&D negotiator on the Digital Services Act initiative report in the European Parliament’s Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection, welcomed the Commission proposals on both Acts. He said that this is a long-overdue reform of 20-year-old rules, which are no longer fit for purpose, adding that there is no doubt that both these proposals will be a game-changer for Europe and the world’s digital future.

While acknowledging that online platforms have become indispensable in our lives, MEP Agius Saliba noted that they have acquired unprecedented powers over the years, by virtue of which they became rule setters in their own rights. He said that this is creating a digital environment suited to their own vested interests, adding that big digital companies have used their powers for surveillance of users, deciding on what we can say, read, see and buy online. Agius Saliba said to date, consumers have been exposed to online scams or faulty products with no legal protection online whatsoever.

“The Commission has taken on board many of the recommendations, we have proposed and adopted in the Parliament’s reports. For example, these proposals are introducing the principle of what is illegal offline should also be illegal online, know your business customer, extraterritoriality of the scope, wide-ranging transparency measures, including on online advertising and on the algorithms used to recommend content to users and provisions that will affect online market places and consumer protection,” said MEP Agius Saliba.

He further noted how the Commission is also proposing detailed rules to tackle the current imbalances with large online platforms like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, and the right for the Commission to impose fines and structural remedies if these rules are broken. In MEP Agius Saliba’ view, this is a significant step towards reaching the objective of having a fairer digital single market and making it easier for smaller companies to scale up.

In his concluding remarks, MEP Agius Saliba, however, highlighted his concerns given that some of the proposed measures fall behind the European Parliament’s ambition. “For me, the benchmark and level of ambition will be the Parliament’s position adopted in our DSA Reports. People must be prioritised over themaximisation of profits of big tech giants, and for that we need clear and binding rules to tackle the imbalance of the digital market.”

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