The Digital Services Act (DSA) has come to an important milestone (again). The European Parliament will have a final vote next week on the proposal first presented in December 2020 by the European Commission, and given a green light by the assigned committee for internal markets in December last year.The DSA is more than just an update of the eCommerce Directive adopted more than 20 years ago. It will be the first of its kind in the world regulating the internet. Its overarching aim is to make the internet a “safe, predictable and trusted online environment” where people are free to exercise their fundamental rights, “in particular the freedom of expression and information and the freedom to conduct a business, and the right to non-discrimination.”
Unfortunately, due to the seemingly unlimited resources of Big Tech and to the far-from-transparent lobbying techniques these giants utilize, last-minute proposals may put the promising start to the DSA in danger. Next week, EU parliamentary groups or members “under the influence” might vote on modifications that clearly contradict the original intent and agreed compromises of the new law.
We at Liberties have been campaigning for years for new internet rules in the EU which ensure that people come ahead of profit, and which are in line with the policy objectives of the DSA. While there have been numerous valid concerns discussed during the evolution of the draft legislative proposal, we have been focusing our efforts around the following issues:
- protecting free speech, proportionate timeframes for content removal
- effective enforcement measures
- a stronger and more privacy-friendly solution to change the business model of targeting
Targeted ads should be phased out to protect our privacy
The advertising technology industry trades with our most sensitive personal data, including our location, social preferences, and sexual orientation. Targeted advertising techniques not only pose a threat to free and fair elections, but also foster the spread of disinformation. We urge MEPs to phase out targeted ads and stop default surveillance techniques.
Automated content moderation (upload filters) poses a threat to free speech
Algorithms used to moderate online content simply cannot understand context or differentiate between satire and serious content. This means automated moderation techniques pushed by Big Tech companies are not able to reliably identify illegal content. The proposed use of upload filters - against which we have been campaigning for years - might lead to the deletion of meaningful discussions, useful or even life-saving information, and could ultimately result in limiting free speech in the digital environment. It goes without saying that we urged MEPs to reject any proposals that might re-introduce upload filters.
Cross-border content removal could empower populists to curb down criticism
According to current proposals, online content could be removed even if it is posted in another EU country. That means one Member State could in effect control what all other EU citizens are able to see. This would allow authoritarian regimes, like Orbán's in Hungary or Kazcynsky’s in Poland, to control free speech on the internet. We asked legislators to vote with a clear ‘NO’ against this possibility.
We asked in a letter sent to members of the European Parliament (EP) to vote in line with these concerns to protect people, their rights and to meet the original intentions of the DSA.
After the EP vote this week, the French EU Presidency will try to hammer out a final compromise between EU countries (the Council) and the EU lawmakers (Parliament).
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