Taiwan's proposed digital services act modeled on EU law: experts

07/03/2022 05:37 PM
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Pixabay image for illustrative purposes only
Pixabay image for illustrative purposes only

Taipei, July 3 (CNA) A draft law proposed by the National Communications Commission (NCC) last month that aims to increase the accountability and transparency of large online platforms in Taiwan is largely based on the EU's Digital Services Act, digital policy experts told CNA on Sunday.

The draft Digital Services Intermediary Act, which was approved by the NCC on June 29, would impose varying levels of obligations on five categories of large online platforms.

It would also establish special provisions for platforms with over 2.3 million domestic users -- such as YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo Auctions, and DCard -- with violators subject to fines of up to NT$10 million (US$335,159).

Chiang Ya-chi (江雅綺), director of the Smart Technology Law and Policy Research Center at the National Taipei University of Technology, told CNA that the NCC proposal was largely modeled on the Digital Services Act enacted by the European Union earlier this year.

In addition to increasing platforms' accountability and transparency through measures such as requiring them to disclose their advertising and recommendation algorithms, the proposal would also streamline the process for obtaining court orders to remove illegal content, she said.

However, Chiang cautioned that enforcing the proposal's content regulation provisions could prove challenging due to the extreme difficulty of judging content in the "gray zone" between personal opinion and disinformation.

Katherine Chen (陳憶寧), a former NCC commissioner who now sits on Meta's Oversight Board, said she considered the plan "a big step forward" for internet regulation in Taiwan, and one that would likely encourage platforms to set up mechanisms to self-regulate.

Still, Chen questioned whether the NCC would be able to evaluate the veracity of transparency reports the proposal would require companies to submit.

Chen added there were also doubts over the NCC's ability effectively regulate TikTok, which is popular among young Taiwanese but has raised political concerns due to its Chinese ownership.

The NCC, for its part, said it was willing to coordinate with the Mainland Affairs Council and other government agencies regarding the oversight of platforms with ties to China like TikTok or Xiaohongshu, given that such regulation could touch on laws governing cross-strait interactions.

The NCC's proposal is the latest of several recent instances -- including its 2020 closure of the China-friendly CTi News television channel -- where the commission has taken up hot-button issues and drawn criticism from opposition politicians.

Responding to the draft act on Facebook last week, Taiwan People's Party lawmaker Tsai Pi-ru (蔡壁如) asked if it was intended to "crack down on fake news or on dissent? And who will oversee it?"

Tsai expressed skepticism in particular over the plan to set up an "independent" foundation to handle claims of disinformation, which she described as "giving public power to (an entity) outside the political system."

Under Taiwan's legislative process, the draft act will be the subject of three explanatory meetings and one public hearing over the next two months, before being sent to the Legislative Yuan for review.

(By Su Ssu-yun and Matthew Mazzetta)


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