Social Media is on the rise. It has changed the way users communicate and interact on a big scale. It has a huge impact on society and politics. Social Media Networks provide platforms for free speech and are used for social and political discussions more and more. For both Social Media Networks and their users it is becoming increasingly necessary to ensure data protection, user privacy and fair competition.
A substantial percentage of the most popular Social Media Networks used by citizens of the European Union are based in non-member-states. At the same time, European Social Network Providers make up an important part of the network services consumed by European citizens. Promoting fair competition for between international and European providers in this arena not only supports not only supports the growth of European companies but is important for European citizens, society and politics as well.
As an interest group comprised of the largest European Social Networks, we are committed to fair competition for all Social Media Networks with special regard to data protection, user privacy and other individual rights of citizens.
From our point of view fair competition between European Social Media Network Providers and providers from non-member-states still has a long way to go. We believe in data protection and user privacy as core assets of our services. Nevertheless, Social Media Networks from non-member-states often appear to be far less restricted in their application of European data protection and privacy laws, and use the personal data of their users to extend their reach in very effective ways.
We as European Social Network Service Providers are actors in a global environment and are in competition with other social networks from non-member-states. In order to enjoy the same competitive opportunities, we endorse global standards,
or harmonization, of legal frameworks that apply to all Social Networks regardless of their origin. At the very least, European legislation should apply to all Social Network Providers that offer their services to citizens or companies of EU member states.
We believe that the regulation of internet services in the European Union is too complicated and lacks clarification of important issues in regard to the Social Networking Industry. Questions raised about whether the use of specific web technologies (e.g. cookies) are considered to be processing of personal data (and must be based on consent) or not do hamper innovation. We need clear rules and regulation that are easily applicable to all Social Networks that cater to citizens or companies in the European Union. – for the good of both the industry and the consumer.
From a strictly European perspective we believe that it is extremely important to reach full harmonisation within and between member states in regard to data protection and protection of individual rights of users in order to ensure fair competition between European Social Media Network Providers.
In terms of enforcement, we are in favor of working towards a strengthened self-regulatory system, which is an effective mechanism for keeping legislation industry-neutral and allows protection to evolve at the same rate as technology.
In term of the innovation process, we believe an approach similar to the one applied by venture capitalists would be more appropriate for our industry. We would recommend that Erasmus type of programmes be organised to give young graduates a chance to gain experience by building innovative products in young creative companies throughout the European Union.
We believe that the Social Networking industry in Europe will be better able to provide cutting edge technologies to European citizens and compete in the international marketplace with a modern approach to regulation of Social Networks, and a more efficient innovation process in Europe.