Increasing liability pressure on Internet intermediaries risks undermining the Digital Single Market achievements

Increasing liability pressure on Internet intermediaries risks undermining the Digital Single Market achievements

Brussels - 10.05.2017: The increasing pressure upon Internet intermediaries to police online content risks undermining Europe’s digital ambitions, according to the European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA). Reacting today to the publication of the European Commission’s mid-term review of the Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy, the 2500 ISPs represented by EuroISPA stressed the degree to which current and upcoming DSM proposals in areas such as copyright and hate speech have the risk of undermining ISPs’ ability to drive the economic and social benefits of digitalisation.

The publication of the DSM mid-term review has failed to assuage EuroISPA fears that the EU E-Commerce Directive – the legislative cornerstone of the European digital economy – is under assault in various legislative contexts. The horizontal liability framework of the E-Commerce Directive allows business in the EU to concentrate on developing innovative legal business models that serve their customers, while at the same time ensuring that they have effective systems in place to deal with various types of illegal content.  EuroISPA strongly urges policymakers in all EU Institutions to not underestimate the degree to which this predictable compliance environment is the catalyst for growth in the European economy, and instrumental in ensuring ISPs can rapidly and effectively tackle illegal content online.

Moreover, EuroISPA notes with disappointment that some of the considerable achievements of the DSM strategy – in particular the efforts to end geo-blocking – have been undermined by the lobbying of conservative legacy business models. Consumers and innovative business models lose most from disparities in regulatory regimes across Member States, and it is thus imperative for the European Commission to maintain a high-level of political will in the face of legacy business models that benefit from such.

Ultimately, EuroISPA encourages the Commission to adopt a thorough and evidence-driven approach to the fight against illegal content and the role of Internet intermediaries in such. Indeed, the Commission should :

  • Ensure that its various proposals around tackling illegal content are underpinned by procedural safeguards and redress mechanisms for Internet service providers and consumers;
  • Ensure that intermediary liability safe harbours are fully protected in EU legislative initiatives, to avoid ISPs being forced to play the role of judge, jury and executioner with regard to the legality of online content;
  • Monitor and review the actions of Member States that might undermine the above two principles, and act to ensure that Internet intermediaries across Europe operate in an environment that safeguards digital innovation and citizens’ fundamental rights.

EuroISPA welcomes the Commission’s commitment in the DSM strategy mid-term review to undertake an open and inclusive dialogue with regard to the future of Notice & Action procedures in Europe. EuroISPA members have consistently led the way in the fight against illegal content, from their stewardship of industry hotlines dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse online, to anti-spam and anti-malware initiatives across Europe. In all initiatives, EuroISPA will continue to work with EU-level policymakers to ensure a safe and secure Internet, where the fight against illegal content is underpinned by transparency, legal clarity and the rule of law.