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How to make Europe's digital transformation responsible and accountable
Nov 11,2020

Governments, but especially citizens, are demanding that technology companies take more responsibility for the societal effects their services can have on children, on civic dialogue, on elections, or in facilitating criminal or terrorist activity. With greater digitization comes an obligation for greater responsibility.


IBM fully supports the need to establish new rules to frame the responsibilities of online services. We are pleased to submit our company’s response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the Digital Services Act (DSA), which you can download here. The DSA represents an opportunity to build greater trust and responsibility in technology, which is critical for all businesses operating in the digital sector.


In our response, we offer our views on how the European Commission can address the risks faced by online users and take steps to protect their rights. We also provide a perspective on how to restore a level-playing field in the digital ecosystem to correct imbalances and failures that have resulted from practices of large online platforms acting as Gatekeepers.


First, we call for “precision regulation” to tackle illegal content online. Concretely, that means we advocate for a framework which focuses on those digital services that play a key role in the dissemination of user-generated content and, as a result, are best placed to take precautionary and remedial measures to curb any societal harm posed by that content. Such a framework should create additional obligations and clarify liability rules for online intermediaries that allow for content or information to be available to the public, and have the technical means, practical ability, and the right to moderate content. For example, we believe that there is room to further clarify the conditions under which such online intermediaries should be liable or not, by conditioning liability exemptions on the application of a standard of “reasonable care”, which we previously outlined in our IBM PolicyLab perspective on stopping illegal activities online. Such an approach would hold these companies more accountable while avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach and overly-broad rules which might hinder innovation and place unnecessary burden on all kinds of technology businesses.


We also support the European Commission’s proposed initiative to create ex ante rules in order to address issues stemming from the behavior and practices of large online platforms acting as Gatekeepers. We share policymakers’ and other companies’ concerns about how such platforms have adopted multiple strategies to protect their Gatekeeper role in order to entrench their positions on their core sector(s), or to make new sectors tip in their favor. We therefore welcome the European Commission’s efforts to restore balance in a digital ecosystem where Gatekeepers’ practices have resulted in customer lock-in and raised barriers to entry for competitors.


Fostering innovation and competitiveness in the online environment will require clear, workable rules, focusing on the specific business models and services that should be in scope, and scalable to the role and capabilities of platforms. Such an approach can both ensure the safety of users while allowing European digital businesses to grow and innovate.


Therefore, IBM calls on lawmakers to ensure the DSA does not create unnecessary hurdles for responsible players contributing to a Digital Europe. Cloud technologies, and particularly enterprise cloud services, will continue to play a crucial role in increasing the resilience and the digitization of industries, and remain a key source of Europe’s competitive advantage and innovation to further build its technological capabilities. It is essential that this cloud foundation of Europe’s Digital Future not be compromised in response to the problematic behavior of a handful of firms.


By taking a “precision regulation” approach, IBM believes the DSA can be an opportunity for Europe to champion online responsibility globally, and provide a safer, fairer and more innovative environment for the region’s digital transformation to flourish.


Amélie Coulet


— Amélie Coulet, Senior Manager, Government and Regulatory Affairs, IBM Europe


Download IBM’s response to the European Commission’s Digital Services Act Consultation:



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