Challenges of Regulating Digital Communication Platforms
What needs does society have in respect of the regulation of video platforms? Hannah Schmid-Petri, Professor for Science Communication at the University of Passau, and IT law expert, Professor Dirk Heckmann from the TU München (Technical University of Munich), are providing important insights for the European digital strategy in a joint bidt-project.
Video platforms offer many opportunities for public discussion and innovative business models. However, there are dangers lurking, for example, if particular groups are excluded or false information is spread. In addition, there is the market power of the globally-operating platform operators.
With the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Market Act (DMA), the European Union is pushing ahead with an ambitious legislative package to intelligently regulate this online world. In a joint project, Professor Hannah Schmid-Petri, holder of the Chair for Scientific Communication at the University of Passau, and Professor Dirk Heckmann, holder of the Chair for Law and Security at the TU München (Technical University of Munich) are researching the social requirements and developing regulatory policy options from this. The project is based at the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt) where the researchers are members of the directorate.
In this project, the research team is researching the following area with a view to the need for regulation:
• Media politics: The securing of both diverse opinions in societal debates and the quality of public communication, i.e. the prevention of hate speech and disinformation.
• Data protection: The safeguarding of informational self-determination
• Copyright law: Protecting the rights of producers, as well as the users of content
• Competition and commercial law: Safeguarding business interests, in particularly those of small digital companies, vis-à-vis the platform operators (with their strong negotiation power).
“Meaningful regulation needs broad societal support. To this end, we first ascertain the experiences and expectations of the population, as well as smaller digital companies which depend on the large platforms. To this end, we start by ascertaining the experiences and expectations of the popular, as well as smaller digital companies, which depend on the large platform”, Professor Schmid-Petri explains. Building upon these results, the research team then develops options for regulating these areas. “With the interdisciplinary collaboration between communication science and law, we are able to contribute to ensuring fair conditions in the public discourse and digital economy,” states Professor Heckmann.
About the Research Team
Professor Hannah Schmid-Petri holds the Chair of Science Communication at the University of Passau. In her research, she focuses on science communication, political communication and online communication. Furthermore, she tests methods of automated data analysis in communication research.
Professor Dirk Heckmann is the holder of the Chair for Law and Digitalisation Security at the Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich). He heads the research unit for IT Law and Network Policy at the University of Passau. From 1998 to 2019, Professor Heckmann held the Chair of Public Law, Security Law and Internet Law at the University of Passau. In his secondary office, he is a member of the Federal Goverment’s Data Ethic Commission and, inter alia, is a constitutional judge at the Bayerischer Verfassungsgerichtshof (Bavarian Constitutional Court).
The communication scientist and the lawyer are both members of the directorate of the Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation (bidt), which is funding the project for a period of three years.
• The project team’s blog post on the question of which groups were able to influence the legislative process for the implementation of the transposal of the Digital Single Market Directive into German law (German): https://www.bidt.digital/blog-urheberrecht-im-digitalen-zeitalter/
• The research project’s website (German): https://www.bidt.digital/forschungsprojekt-digitale-kommunikationsplattformen/