Seminar Report: How responsible should I be? Users in the EU regulatory framework for online content sharing platforms

Guest post by Prof. UAM dr hab. Katarzyna Klafkowska-Waśniowska, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland.

How responsible should I be -slajdy blogpost

 

Responsibility has become one of the main principles of the European approach in regulating online platform services. The development of a regulatory framework for new media services and balancing the interests of rightholders and service providers has long been at the center of my research.  Therefore, together with Prof. Katja Weckström Lindroos (University of Eastern Finland), Prof. Maria Lilla Montagnani (Bocconi University) and an international team of experts we have started a project focusing on structuring the role of platforms in preserving fundamental values including freedom of expression.

Initial findings and possibilities of developing the concept of responsible users, whose contribution is an essential element of platform environment, were presented during a seminar at CREATe, which I found to be a perfect place to discuss complex platform-user relations, and consult some of the ideas for the project.

The development of media law – from regulating television to regulating audiovisual on-demand services and now embracing platforms – clearly reflects how the model viewer turns into a more active “user”. From the copyright perspective passive users limit themselves to reading, listening, watching etc. Yet even in such cases in the online environment we recognize “activities”, often followed by linking, downloading, quoting, reviewing and commenting. In the EU legal framework users are recognized as consumers, creators and more and more as individuals claiming their right to freedom of expression.

Among the initiatives addressing activities of online platform services on the digital single market, two are of particular importance from that perspective. The Digital Single Market Directive (DSM) addresses online content sharing platforms, and the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) includes video-sharing platforms in the framework of audiovisual media regulation.

Careful reading of art. 17 DSM leads to the conclusion that if the mechanisms established by platforms to prevent copyright infringement limits freedom of expression, it may be primarily the user’s responsibility to object and claim a right to exception or limitation. Platforms should also contribute to the protection from harmful and illegal content. This includes putting in place certain functionalities that allow users to flag, rate or report content violating AVMSD standards. The activities of users thus may, or even should, trigger restricting access to content.  Analogies between mechanisms drafted in both Directives to safeguard freedom to impart and receive information, and the fact that the same platform may fall in the scope of both Directives, prompts similar questions on the role allocated to users. It is trivial to say we need responsible users. But does “responsible users” mean users closely following platform policy, subject to the control of a Member State? It seems clear that to safeguard freedom of expression we would need more active, if not activist, users. It is impossible however to burden users with such a task. Therefore, in our project we will closely follow the user’s position and degree of the state control over platform policy in national laws implementing Directives.

I thank Dr. Thomas Margoni for hosting me at CREATe in September and organizing the talk. I also thank all the participants for their questions and opinions. It will contribute to further research planned for this project, in particular where platforms’ role in managing and organizing information is considered from the user perspective.

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