February Newsletter | What is in the EU digital strategy for the media ecosystem?

What is in the EU digital strategy for the media ecosystem?

The EU’s digital strategy was presented on February 19, just days after Facebook’s founder visited Brussels. He proved to be open to platform regulation and suggested a regulatory category between telecommunications infrastructure and media. A proposal to be deepened, as stakeholders and us suggested in our Open Letter “Trusted Media and Platform Regulation”, where the definition of ‘Systemic Publishing Platforms’ (SysPPees) is proposed. It is encouraging that the EU digital strategy now addresses “systemic platforms”.
Time is ripe for an integrated strategy for the media sector, bundling various policy initiatives (the Digital Services Act – consultation  to be opened by the end of March -, the Media Action Plan and the Democracy Action Plan, now jointly in Q4 2020. And of course competition policy, and R&D: Horizon Europe).

In the same spirit of acceleration, Fondation EURACTIV hosted on February 17 an informal “apéro” talk with key media & EU players (Commission, Parliament, Council, EEAS). We discussed the future of media policy, and especially the process of stakeholder engagement.
There are further signs of the EU “getting serious”, with the flagging of competition policy moves: coordination with industrial policy, sector enquiry, dynamic analysis of platforms (“ex-ante” not just “ex-post”). Some of the points above will seem “technical” to some media readers. Actually, competition law serves consumer’s interests, just like democracy serves citizens, just like media revenues serve journalism quality. Integrating policies for digital: this is the challenge for 2020.

Any input from you before we propose the work recommendations of our think-tank?

Christophe Leclercq, Executive Chair, @LeclercqEU
Fondateur at EURACTIV.com

THINK – Regulating digital platforms for a balanced media ecosystem – US and European perspectives

Platforms to be increasingly regulated in a media-like way 
At the Munich Security Conference, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg said that platforms should be regulated in a category between a telco and a newspaper (via Reuters). However, the EU Commissioners he met a couple of days later did not seem happy with the proposal (via Financial Times).

Read more on the definition of ‘Systemic Publishing Platforms’

Indeed, “the EU should create a new corporate classification for large, dominant social platform businesses that have created vital public digital infrastructure. These attention utilities should be required to operate in the public interest, according to rules and licences that guide their business models”.  (Via Financial Times)

Encouraging national (and European) developments 
While French lawmakers are considering proposals to regulate so-called “systemic platforms” (via LaTribune), at the same time, the European Parliament is discussing how to define them in its annual report on competition policyin order to have them subjected to greater regulatory scrutiny (via Politico).

Read more on the use of competition tools to rebalance the media ecosystem.

Why Mark Zuckerberg’s Plea for Regulation is an Enormous Cop-Out

(via Mother Jones) Wanting regulation but doing nothing in the meantime isn’t the same as being impartial. Specifically, in the context of political advertising (and in the runup to the US elections this year), inaction is a form of partiality that benefits the side that is more willing to lie.

Twitter announced its approach on manipulated and synthetic media, ahead of 2020 elections. One of the criteria that will be used to identify manipulated and synthetic media, to reduce their visibility and warn the consumers, is the harm they could cause to the public, in terms of producing confusion or deceive people on purpose. A synthetic media is described as a media algorithmically created or modified.

Facebook could face first Supreme Court challenge to Section 230 immunity US (MLex)
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act includes a form of “immunity” to benefit online services providers, stating: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.
It is now under exam if this represents a general immunity against any claim: if so, it should be removed or limited for big social media platforms on the consideration that they could benefit from such immunity and avoid any form of liability.

UK backing of controversial cybercrime treaty raises suspicions (EURACTIV)
A Russian-led and Chinese-backed UN resolution on cybercrime was adopted in December, despite opposition from several Western powers. There are concerns about the powers this convention would give to governments, eventually allowing them to promote internet blackouts and censorships, said Alexander Seger, Council of Europe’s head of cybersecurity.

Limits of fact-checking and advantages of Trust Indicators (Reuters)
Evaluation by fact-checkers is relevant but rather slow and can have some drawbacksWith platforms keen on integrating fact-checking, why don’t they consider Trust Indicators as an alternative?

Read more on the notion ofTrust Indicators (and a dedicated market).

Humans Disrupting Digital? Expect More Regulation, Fact-Checking and Curation (Editor & Publisher)
From rules and regulation to fact-checking and Artificial Intelligence: these are going to be the most discussed topics in 2020, with an optimistic view on the role of “humans over algorithms”, especially in the journalistic sector, where human curation could really make the difference.

Supporting media at a time of crisis: donors explore new strategies (Center for International Media Assistance)
New ways of supporting the media sector are rising amongst international donors -both in the public and private sector. The report aims to analyse how to strengthen this support, and to identify what are the deficiencies of the media sector and its financial system to better address the crisis.

Pourquoi les GAFAM sont-elles si puissantes? (Forbes)

La course à l’hyperpuissance des géants de la tech s’accélère (Le Figaro)
Les cinq géants technologiques américains ont tous affiché des taux de croissance de leurs revenus compris entre 14 % et 27 % en 2019, les GAFAM s’attaquent maintenant à de nouvelles frontières.

Sky’s Jeremy Darroch calls for stronger U.K. regulation of Silicon Valley players (Variety)
Online threats to democracy and lack of accountability by tech giants have led to several attempts of legislation, from Australia’s efforts against sharing violent material, to Europe with the Digital Services Act (DSA). The UK still needs to respond to its Online Harms White Paper, in which the Government claims “that the digital economy urgently needs a new regulatory framework to improve our citizens’ safety online”.

UK Government’s tech advisors call for overhaul of social media regulation
The CDEI – Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation- shared recommendations to make online platforms more accountable, focusing on the protection of privacy and freedom of expression along with regulation on transparency and ethics. It addressed online targeting systems for their lack of transparency and accountability, claiming “Online targeting has been blamed for a number of harms. These include the erosion of autonomy and the exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities; potentially undermining democracy and society; and increased discrimination”.

Ofcom to be handed expanded role as internet watchdog (Financial Time)
Ofcom, the UK’s media regulator,  is about to be given the role of internet watchdog, it will consist in holding online platforms to account for illegal and harmful content.

Open Letter co-signed by five MEPs and former MEPs, and ten policy and media experts:
Democratic debates require trusted information, less economic pressure on media, and more policy pressure on platforms. Three concepts could help: ‘co-regulation’, ‘trust indicators’, ‘systemic publishing platforms’.

DO – Exchange and training programme for media professionals

Stars4Media is a unique opportunity for media professionals to gain skills around data journalism, fact checking, and business development. You can now register for the Stars4Media Lab networking event (March 30th – April 1st, Brussels) to benefit from training and develop cross-disciplinary collaborations. And don’t forget to share your ideas on the Stars4Media LinkedIn Group!

Express Individual Interest

Events on Media Policy and Media Innovation

March 20th – Media and democracy, the way forward
On this occasion, the preliminary findings of the 2020 Media Pluralism Monitor will be presented and discussed with media stakeholders in Brussels.

March 24th – Forum EuropeDigital Services Act: a new rulebook for the digital economy?
This Forum Europe conference will discuss the objectives and potential provisions of any proposed Digital Services Act, e.g. liability, content moderation and regulatory oversight of intermediary service providers