Online platform regulation: transition between Arcom and DSA

For three years now, Arcom teams have been in close contact with the main online platforms to strictly enforce their moderation policies. Fourteen platforms, including Meta, Twitter, YouTube, and now TikTok, completed a report this year based on the Arcom questionnaire to explain the tools used to combat information manipulation.

This Monday, November 28th, Arcom released a summary of these reports to the press. Despite the observed improvement in the amount of information claimed by the platforms, Arcom still notes a “very heterogeneous” level of transparency and the absence, in some cases, such as TikTok, of encrypted and material data. This conclusion is largely similar to Arcom’s 2021 report, which took into account the smaller scale, in the absence of TikTok and Pinterest at the time.

For Roch-Olivier Maistre, the very contrasting involvement of the Internet giants is evidence of an empty recognition of the authority of the French regulator. He points to the “limitations” of the Dec. 22, 2018 Anti-Manipulation of Information Act, which does not give Arcom real “sanctions powers.” “It’s an understandable party for a legislator because it’s a very complex topic that cuts to the very heart of freedom of speech,” Arcom’s president said.

To truly “expand”, Arcom plans to implement the Digital Services Act (DSA). With the support of the European Commission and Member States, the regulator hopes to be able to do more. “With the adoption of the DSA, this regulation will in the future be applied not at the European level, but at the European level,” says Roche-Olivier Mestre.

Pitfalls of a collective game

The European text on digital services should also allow researchers to be more involved by giving them access to platform data. This system is widely supported by the Arcom teams, who today, with a few exceptions, are showing a real shortage.

But it’s not all bad in this assessment of the 2018 law, argues Benoit Loutrel, an Arcom member who leads the Oversight of Online Platforms task force. “We have developed a trusting relationship. In this way, Arcom was able to start working with platforms and various networks in the state, such as Viginum and PEReN,” he says.

Likewise, a 2021 law reaffirming respect for the principles of the Republic made it possible, in his words, to “tear off the plaster” in the fight against hateful content. Applicable in France until December 31, 2023, this law was written “in anticipation of the DSA”, which will take over these issues on that date, says Benoît Loutrel.

Now the whole difficulty will be to play collectively, admits, however, Benoit Loutrel. “There is a long road ahead. The biggest danger will be to play the same game together,” emphasizes the latter.

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