On the 2nd of October, Members of the European Parliament adopted the Audio Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). After it is approved by the Council of Ministers, Member States will have 21 months to transpose it into their national laws. COFACE Families Europe has actively contributed to this piece of legislation and pushed for several core principles in order to better protect children. Our main focus was to protect children from advertising and marketing, especially online and with respect to unhealthy food and beverages (HFSS – High in Fat, Sugar or Salt), given that the AVMSD already regulated “traditional” media quite extensively.
The adopted Directive made some progress such as the extension of audiovisual rules to video-sharing platforms, which will have to put in place appropriate measures to protect minors online. Another positive development is the promotion of European works: on-demand catalogues will have to propose at least 30% European content.
There remain many questions as to how some of the rules will apply in practice. While the “country of origin” principle has been strengthened in order to specify which Member State’s rules apply, it may still cause problems for content like pornography and cross-border availability of such content with no or little measures to ensure appropriate age verification. Protecting minors against harmful content also remains a challenge, and we will have to wait and see how the new provisions will be applied/enforced in practice.
As regards harmful content (violence, drugs, sex…), COFACE Families Europe especially insisted on the necessity for online service providers to enforce their own terms of service and community standards given that they explicitly forbid harmful content, but do a poor job of identifying it and taking it down.
Unfortunately, some recommendations and issues have not been covered by the adopted AVMSD and will have to be discussed in future revisions of the Directive. Among these, COFACE-Families Europe underlined the following:
- Extending the logic of 20% maximum advertising per hour of television to online services: find a way to limit how much advertising there is online.
- Prevent the excessive reliance on self-regulation in limiting online advertising which has yielded poor results.
- Focus on interoperability for tools that allow for better parental control/parental mediation so that parents do not have to install or configure dozens of separate settings to keep their children safe, especially their younger children.
- Convince online service providers to create a “basic online account” for children which would be fully private with strong data protection
(encryption of the data shared), and would thus not necessitate parental consent since there would be no processing of personal data. This would allow children to experience a relatively less filtered internet without any targeted advertising.
There are also several future challenges that the AVMSD failed to address:
- The scope of what is considered to be advertising (unboxing videos on Youtube Kids? Viral marketing which relies on users sharing it themselves?).
- New forms of media such as virtual or augmented reality and new technologies such as Internet of Things and connected toys through which a lot of marketing and data collection can happen.
- How to regulate decentralized services which have no central authority liable for content?
For more information, visit the official website of the EU Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/audiovisual-media-services-directive-avmsd
Or contact Martin Schmalzried: firstname.lastname@example.org