On 20 October 2020, the EU Parliament voted on a total of six initiative reports on the Digital Services Act and the use of Artificial Intelligence. All six reports were adopted with a clear majority.
On 19 October 2020, a day before the vote, the EU Parliament debated the three reports addressing each of the topics. How big and in particular how wide-ranging the effects of platform economy and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are, is not at least demonstrated by the fact that no fewer than ten different Parliamentary Committees have dealt with the reports. Hence, the debate was accordingly heterogeneous. Regarding the Digital Services Act, the reports among other call for the stricter regulation of targeted advertising, decisive action against dubious business practices and counterfeit or hazardous products as well as maintaining the freedom of expression on the internet. Building users’ trust as well as questions regarding control, transparency and liability are key issues of the reports on the use of AI.
Vestager announces Digital Single Market Act
Margrethe Vestager, Vice President and Commissioner for Digital, thanked all, who were involved in the reports and explained that apart from the Digital Services Act, the Commission was also working on a Digital Market Act. The latter shall address so-called gatekeepers – hence online corporations that have a great deal of power and control over the internet – and determine relevant dos and don’ts. The principle had to be applied that users on the internet were protected against illegal practices to the same degree as in real life and that technologies such as AI always had to serve the people. With regard to the new and often precarious employment models of the platform economy, the EU Commission has announced an initiative on improving the working conditions of platform workers in its recently presented Work Programme for 2021.
Digitalisation and labour law
On 15 and 16 October 2020, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) hosted a two-day conference, to debate the rethinking of labour law in the digitalisation era. Within the scope of four panel discussions dozens of scientist, trade unionists and representatives of EU institutions debated the impact of digitalisation on the labour law as well as strategies as to how politics and labour representation could best meet the associated challenges. One of the participants was Iban Garcia Del Blanco (S&D), the competent MEP for a report of the Committee on Legal Affairs regarding a framework for ethical aspects of AI. As emphasised by Isabelle Schömann of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) after two days of intensive discussions, regulating working conditions must not be left to the platforms themselves – what is needed is action by regulators, legislators and trade unions.
Digital transition must be secure and just
The Chamber of Labour is also intensively participating in the debate on the challenges of a digital transition and on the question as to how this can be made as just and secure as possible. With a view to a Digital Services Act, it is, in the opinion of the Chamber of Labour, of particular importance to end precarious employment on digital platforms, to ensure fair competition and to improve the protection of consumers. Regarding the use of AI, the comprehensive protection of workers – for example by providing them with a right of co-determination and involving the social partners – is as vital as the protection of consumers and the environment.