“Together, we will work for a more digital, ecological and social Europe,” tweeted Ursula von der Leyen when France took over the rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1. For the digital part, the Secretary of State Cédric O carries a double regulatory project, the DMA, Digital Markets Act, approved last month, and the DSA, Digital Services Act, validated by MEPs on Thursday.
In line with the GDPR, which came into force in May 2018, the DSA promises to curb the spread of illegal content by protecting citizens and consumers, combating misinformation and emphasizing transparent moderation and algorithms. A vast program that Gafa and other super platforms see with a dim view.
But France’s presidency of the European Union is underway and intends to outpace the digital behemoths: “Everyone has the will to conclude, we must take advantage of it. » Before July 1st? In an exclusive interview with 20 minutes, Cédric O, Secretary of State for the Digital Transition and Electronic Communications, details France’s ambitions in this area.
What is the “Digital Services Act”, this European regulatory project in the pipeline for several months and on which France wants to accelerate during its presidency of the EU?
The overall principle of the DSA is to empower the major social networks and the major platforms with three objectives. The first is to be transparent about the terms and policies of moderation. Today, we don’t know how many French-language moderators there are on Facebook or on Twitter, for example. In any case, we have no way of verifying it. We don’t know how their algorithms work and why they highlight one piece of information over another. On some platforms, especially those that can bring together more than several million French people, this is an aberration.
The second point of the DSA is the possibility of forcing certain platforms and social networks to extremely large fines if they do not put in place effective moderation systems against online hate, for the protection of children, etc. The regulator will be able to assess whether the efforts put in place make it possible to limit the negative impacts of these abuses in daily life.
Last year, France delisted the online marketplace Wish because a share
significant – up to 90-95% – of the products sampled on this platform were non-compliant for certain product categories. The third point concerns the protection of consumers, who must be able to count on the regulator to protect them from this type of practice.
When do you expect this legislation to come into force?
Yesterday there was a vote in the European Parliament and then we will enter a phase of discussions for an agreement with the Member States and the European Commission which we hope to find by the end of the French Presidency on July 1st. Finally, we expect it to come into force at the end of 2022, beginning of 2023. This is exceptionally fast for European legislation.
Is this a way to muzzle Gafa and lobbies on these two texts which will clearly affect them?
We are not targeting a particular nationality but really a
certain type of large platforms. European actors are concerned,
especially in e-commerce. We want to maintain the momentum of negotiation so as not to give time to certain lobbies and other influences to influence the debates. We know that in the EU, we can enter into very long negotiation phases. This is why we must agree not to resolve everything with the DSA and the DMA, we must have a reasonable ambition so as not to fall into trench warfare, as is the case with certain texts, which have been on the table for several years and blocked. There, everyone has the will to conclude, it is necessary to take advantage of it.
Will there be a coordinator in each EU country to set up the DSA?
It all depends on the size of the targeted platforms. For small and medium-sized networks, the DSA will be implemented by national regulators (the European equivalents of the CSA). For the very large social networks, those which pose the most problems, we would like the European Commission to be the super regulator. Facing them, they must find sufficient firepower, which sets up a uniform system throughout Europe to conduct discussions that could be difficult. This point is still under discussion.
To implement the DSA, we would like the European Commission to have all the powers to verify on the spot and on the spot the implementation of the obligations. And if it finds that the major social networks are not complying with the obligations, the fines can climb up to 6% of the company’s turnover worldwide. This is extremely powerful since today, the main text that applies to digital players in the EU is the GDPR, which can impose fines of up to 4% of turnover. .
What other projects would you like to carry out between now and the end of the EU presidency?
We must regulate, protect and ensure that the value remains here, that jobs are created within Europe and that the tools used throughout the world are of European inspiration. For this, we want to make Europe the first
continent in terms of technological innovation. We have been caricatured, in particular with the use of the terms “ start-up nation, but today, the results are there. The best example is Doctolib, without whom we would not have been able to carry out the vaccination campaign in such an effective way.
We would also like to make progress on the means the EU can adopt to bring out new European digital champions. We use a majority of Anglo-Saxon digital tools, which weighs on our independence. It’s quite simple: of the ten largest companies in the world, eight are in tech, six are less than 25 years old and none are European.
French Tech is an instrument in the influence of France and shows us that it is possible to go even further and, why not, to apply it on a European scale. We need more Doctolib, more Blablacar, more Lydia in the daily life of the French. We want the big companies of tomorrow to be French and European.
How to find the right balance between regulation, particularly with regard to fake news, and freedom of expression? What tools are offered?
Transparency is the key. By understanding how systems work, where information comes from, how it propagates, then we can study the phenomenon of fake news. The DSA does not regulate what is legal or illegal, but the means implemented by large web companies to apply the laws of different countries. There must be a balanced approach between freedom of expression and regulation in their moderations. They cannot withdraw everything under the pretext of control, of course. A significant number of moderators, effective moderation tools and transparency on the algorithms are therefore essential.
The best existing example is that of the fight against bank fraud. The bank is not responsible for fraudulent transfers made by its customers through their accounts. On the other hand, it is responsible for having systems for detecting fraudulent transfers that are 95, 96 or even 97% effective. And if it does not provide this service, it can be penalized by significant fines. The DSA is exactly the same thing. It does not say “Facebook is responsible for this or that fake news or such or such hateful content online” but Facebook is responsible for having an effective system, the terms of which it can adapt to regulate what it relays.
Is the virtual world an area of lawlessness, especially for the youngest?
The whole population needs to be educated, even if minors are obviously particularly vulnerable on this kind of subject. In the DSA, there is also a reinforced system for the protection of the youngest.
We have created a procedure in France which allows the CSA to force pornographic sites to ensure that they are not accessible to minors. Minors are prime targets in the virtual world. This is a subject that is close to our hearts and for which we have implemented an action plan for all the protection of minors online with the site.
Jeprotegemonenfant.gouv.fr and the communication campaign launched by Adrien Taquet, as well as a bill, currently under discussion, on strengthening parental control. It seems important today to make a proposal for parental control mandatory when
activation of electronic devices. Today, only one in four parents has the reflex to install one.
Regarding the carbon footprint of digital companies, what are you doing to reduce it?
Most of the digital carbon footprint is electronic devices. So all the actions on “not answering all, etc” are anecdotal with regard to the pace of replacement of cell phones, laptops and especially televisions. The real central subject is therefore the rate of renewal.
We created the repairability index on each electronic device. The law aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of digital, passed two months ago, includes a chapter on spare parts to promote the repair of terminals. And we are also putting in place environmental conditions on reduced electricity tariffs and data center. We have a real desire to push for the extension of the life of the various devices. The question of software obsolescence is also an important subject, which we take up at European level.
Has the health crisis had a salutary effect on digital inclusion?
It had a double effect. More citizens have gone digital, but on the other side, the gap with those who haven’t come on board is growing. The question of the digital divide is to continue to include, to help, to raise awareness among those who do not use the tools, those who do not know how to identify the fake news, it’s parenting in the age of screens, it’s data and personal life. This problem therefore affects a majority of French people to varying degrees.
The budget for digital inclusion in 2017 was 600,000 euros per year, it has been increased to 250 million euros annually. The path to digital transition is still long and complicated for the French who feel a strong sense of dispossession. It is up to us to accompany them.