Even in the midst of the biggest crisis most of us have ever witnessed, digital services help us to continue working, doing business, learning, staying informed, shopping, entertaining ourselves, socialising and staying in touch with our friends and families across the globe.
Online platforms – big and small – have become central in our economy and society. Even in our democracy.
While digital services offer unprecedented opportunities, the risks are also real: online bullying, hate speech, fake news, skewed elections, unsafe or counterfeited goods, being choked off from business opportunities if you’re a small player - the list is long.
We have heard the call from citizens and companies. The message is clear: the business and political interests of a handful of companies should not dictate our future. Europe has to set its own terms and conditions.
So just like we have done in the physical world, it is time to organise our digital world.
Our rules on digital services in Europe – the most coveted single market in the world – date back to 2000. Most online platforms hardly existed back then. We need to update our toolbox and make sure that our rules and principles are respected everywhere. Online as well as offline.
On 15th December, we will unveil an overhaul of our rules on digital services and markets with two major legal acts, which go hand in hand.
The Digital Services Act will impose new obligations and responsibilities on all online intermediaries, mainly platforms, with regard to the content they host - wherever they are in the EU.
Sectoral legislation will plug into that horizontal framework and define, in particular, what constitutes illegal content - such as hate speech, terrorism, child pornography or the sale of illegal or counterfeit products - as well as the specific remedies.
We also need to ensure that digital markets remain open and contestable. The Digital Markets Act will more specifically target the economic behaviour of companies that have become systemically relevant.
Because with size comes responsibility. Digital gatekeepers will have to respect a number of well-defined prohibitions and obligations to avoid unfair behaviour from digital gatekeepers.
And just like on our roads a driver faces a range of sanctions (financial penalties, temporary or even permanent retreat of the driving license), the DMA will foresee strong, proportionate, gradual, yet deterrent, sanctions for their violation.
With a clear and predictable framework for the single market, swift preventive intervention powers and the possibility to impose sanctions, we will be able to prevent harmful behaviour before it even takes place.
Just like traffic rules do not stop us from reaching our travel destination. They only ensure a safer travel for everyone.
Margrethe Vestager is executive vice president of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age .
Thierry Breton is Commissioner for the Internal Market.